Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Conflict of Interest in the AA/BA Proceeding

The Dow Jones Newswire broke a story this afternoon reporting that John Porcari, U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary, has recused himself from the ongoing American Airlines/British Airways/Iberia antitrust immunity proceeding.  See Kaveri Niththyananthan, U.S. Transportation Official Recused From British Airways/AMR Study, Dow Jones Newswire, Sept. 23, 2009 (available here). 

Porcari, in his former capacity as Maryland's Secretary of Transportation, supported the airlines' bid for antitrust immunity in a November 2008 letter to former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.  In the letter, Porcari wrote:

The emergence of airline alliances has bolstered competition and has greatly enhanced air service access around the world.  In addition, the Open Skies agreement with the European Union now provides for access to London Heathrow for all U.S. carriers.  The approval of this [antitrust immunity] application would be a prudent extension of your department's efforts to reduce barriers to entry and enhance competition in the international aviation arena.

Advancing inter-gateway competition has also been an objective of U.S. international aviation policy since the mid 1980s.  I believe many benefits would accrue to BWI Marshall with the approval of this application.  British Airways' daily non-stop service to London-Heathrow would be bolstered with a code share with American Airlines and federal employees who travel internationally would have more choices should British Airways and American Airlines be awarded Fly America traffic.  Also, the Washington Council of Governments' biannual passenger survey consistently reports BWI Marshall as the preferred airport in the Washington-Balitmore metropolitan area.

Your affirmative decision for this ATI application is critical for the future growth of trans-Atlantic travel from BWI Marshall.  Providing the carriers with [antitrust immunity] levels the playing field among the major airline alliances and further advances goals of U.S. international aviation policy, including inter-gateway competition.

See Letter from John D. Porcari to Hon. Mary Peters (Nov. 12, 2008) (filed Dec. 9, 2008 as part of DOT Dkt. No. OST-2008-0252) (available here).

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