Sunday, October 4, 2009
On Friday, the European Commission confirmed that it had sent a statement of objections to oneworld Alliance members American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia concerning their plans to cooperate on scheduling, pricing, and capacity. See Press Release, Europa, Antitrust: Commission Confirms Sending Statement of Objections to Three Members of oneworld Airline Alliance, MEMO/09/430 (Oct. 2, 2009) (available here).
This has to be seen as a serious blow to the alliance, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding its pending antitrust immunity application before the Department of Transportation. Unlike in the U.S., alliances do not have the option of seeking the boon of antitrust immunity in the European Union. While the Commission has taken a generally positive view of airline alliances in the past, the tide may be turning as analysts and rival carriers have opined that deeper oneworld integration will restrict competitive access to London Heathrow. Though oneworld's competitors, Star and SkyTeam, already enjoy antitrust immunity, both remain under investigation by the Commission for possible antitrust violations.