Airport group favours Oneworld antitrust immunity

Washington DC
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Dallas/Fort Worth International airport and 75 other airports petitioned the US DOT in support of Oneworld's antitrust immunity proposal today, the final day to submit public comment to regulators.

The group formally responded to DOT through the Airports' Coalition for Alliance Benefits (ACAB).

Despite arguments to the contrary, opportunities will exist for non-alliance carriers even if Oneworld's venture is approved, DFW CEO Jeff Fegan says. He explains the tie-up also levels the playing field for Oneworld compared SkyTeam, which already have transatlantic antitrust immunity, and members of the Star alliance that recently gained tentative antitrust approval.

DFW-based American Airlines, British Airways (BA) and Iberia, along with Finnair and Royal Jordanian Airlines, applied for anti-trust immunity with the DOT last year for a joint agreement on flights between North America and Europe.

However, Virgin Atlantic Airways founder Sir Richard Branson opposes the proposal because he "cannot guarantee Virgin Atlantic's survival" if antitrust immunity is granted to his competitors.

While Branson has long opposed the American/BA antitrust application--arguing it will affect transatlantic traffic, virtually shut London Heathrow airport from new entrants and result in higher fares--ACAB contends antitrust immunity will grant passengers more options.

"I believe there is opportunity for access to Heathrow," Fegan said during a press conference in Washington today, adding that more competition among alliances translates to lower ticket prices for passengers.

The alliance would also allow American to use sales teams at BA and Iberia, for example, to generate new service from Dallas/Fort Worth to Europe, DFW executive vice president of marketing and terminal Joe Lopano says.