LUFTHANSA AND United Airlines have applied for US anti-trust immunity to expand their strategic alliance. The move came just hours, after a new open-skies bilateral air accord was initialed, by US and German transport officials.

Final signature on the bilateral is expected by the third quarter. German transport minister Matthias Wissman, has made granting of anti-trust immunity by the US Transportation Department, a precondition for Germany's signing the bilateral.

Although the DoT says that granting of immunity could not be a subject for bilateral negotiations, it would appear that the Clinton Administration must have promised favourable consideration.

Lufthansa says that immunity will enable the partner airlines to plan capacities and prices jointly, integrate sales policy and implement common product and service standards. To date, the only transatlantic agreement with this kind of immunity is the KLM/Northwest Airlines alliance.

With the new liberalised agreement, the USA has open-skies pacts with 11 European countries, representing 40% of the European market. Germany is the second-largest European market for US carriers.

The agreement removes limits on passenger and cargo services between the two countries and third countries and eliminates restrictions on pricing.

Source: Flight International