December 23, 2009
DOJ Comes Out Against oneworld
The Department of Justice filed comments on Monday opposing a broad grant of antitrust immunity for the oneworld Alliance. See Joint Application of American Airlines, Inc. et al., Comments of the Department of Justice, Dkt. No. OST-2008-0252 (Dec. 21, 2009) (available here). From the filing:
Applicants’ proposed agreements would result in competitive harm on certain transatlantic routes serving 2.5 million passengers annually. Fares between six pairs of cities – (1) Boston and London, (2) Chicago and London, (3) Dallas and London, (4) Miami and London, (5) Miami and Madrid, and (6) New York and London – could increase up to 15% under the proposed agreements. The Applicants claim substantial benefits will flow from an expanded alliance, but they have not shown that immunity is necessary to achieve these benefits. Although the proposed alliance agreements may lead to public benefits, Applicants overstate their magnitude and value, particularly in relation to their current unimmunized alliance. We therefore recommend that DOT impose conditions – slot divestitures or carve-outs, as appropriate – on a grant of immunity to protect the public interest in competition.
Id. at 3.
According to a story out today, both American Airlines and British Airways said they would be filing responses shortly. See Airlines Hit Back at US Criticism of Tie-Up Plans, BBC News, Dec. 23, 2009 (available here). While the DOT had said it would render a decision on the application at the end of October, it has extended its deadline for new filings into early next year. Stakeholders now have until January 11, 2010 to comment on the proposal.
December 21, 2009
ATA Fires Back
Not surprisingly, the Air Transport Association isn't sitting in silence following the Department of Transportation's new tarmac delay rule. From their press statement:
“We will comply with the new rule even though we believe it will lead to unintended consequences – more cancelled flights and greater passenger inconvenience. In particular, the requirement of having planes return to the gates within a three hour window or face significant fines is inconsistent with our goal of completing as many flights as possible. Lengthy tarmac delays benefit no one,” said ATA president and CEO James C. May.
See Press Release, ATA, ATA Comments on DOT Tarmac Delay Rule (Dec. 21, 2009) (available here).
According to the DOT, the new rules won't take effect until 120 days after publication in the Federal Register. See U.S. DOT, Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, Final Rule, Dkt. No. DOT-OST-2007-0022 (Dec. 21, 2009) (available here).
Three Hours or Else
The Department of Transportation has announced that airlines may not keep passengers out on the tarmac for more than three hours. See Devin Dwyer, Tarmac Delays Get Three Hour Limit in DOT Airline Crackdown, ABC News, Dec. 21, 2009 (available here). The rule is limited to domestic flights only, however. According to the DOT:
The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable.
Carriers are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.
. . .
The rule also:
• Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;
• Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
• Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;
• Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
• Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.
See Dept. of Transp., New DOT Consumer Rule Limits Airline Tarmac Delays, Provides Other Passenger Protections, DOT 199-09 (Dec. 21, 2009) (available here).