US regulators have tentatively approved transatlantic anti-trust immunity for Oneworld partners American, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia on the condition they make four pairs of London Heathrow slots available to competitors for new US-Heathrow flights.
The relinquishment of slots has long been discussed as a potential requirement for the Oneworld partners to ultimately achieve anti-trust. Previously American chief executive officer Gerard Arpey has said he doesn’t believe any remedies are necessary in order for the partners to gain necessary approvals to launch a transatlantic joint venture.
DOT in granting tentative approval explains that benefits from allowing the Oneworld partners to operate under anti-trust include lower fares on more routes, increased services and better schedules.
But the department also believes the proposed tie-up would harm competition on select routes between the USA and Heathrow, where regulators feel the availability of landing and takeoff slots is limited.
In addition to requiring the relinquishment of four pairs of Heathrow slots, DOT is also requiring changes to ensure capacity growth while also requesting the partner airlines submit traffic data for review.
Despite the stipulations, DOT has concluded the proposed alliance among the Oneworld partners will “enhance competition around the world by creating competition with the existing Star alliance and SkyTeam alliance, which have already been granted immunity”.