Thursday, July 15, 2010
Yesterday, the European Commission closed its investigation of the oneworld Alliance after accepting its commitments to release 49 weekly slots at London Heathrow and enter limited cooperation agreements with competitors on ticket sales and frequent flyer programs for select U.S./London routes. See European Commission, Antitrust: British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia Commitments to Ensure Competition . . ., MEMO/10/330 (July 14, 2010) (available here). The full list of commitments can be found in Commitments to the European Commission, Case COMP/F-1/39.596 (June 25, 2010) (available here).
The Commission's decision in this matter is not surprising. Over the past decade, the Commission's stance toward alliances involving European carriers has been generally positive. Where competition concerns are raised, commitments such as those offered by oneworld or by SkyTeam in 2007. SeePress Release, Antitrust: Commission Market Tests Commitments from Eight Members of SkyTeam Concerning Their Alliance Cooperation, IP/07/1558 (Oct. 19, 2007) (available here). While this approach may upset "antitrust purists" who would prefer to see the Commission curtail alliance behavior such as coordinating prices and scheduling, it has allowed EU airlines to provide consumers with global route networks and other perquisites without crowding-out new market entrants.