LaHood Says Move Will "Preserve Jobs, Enhance Competition"
The U.S. DOT has given final
approval for antitrust immunity to Continental Airlines to join the
Star Alliance, and approved a new joint venture among four of the
alliance's members. Antitrust immunity allows airlines to
coordinate their services and act as a single carrier for
international air services covered by the immunity.
"I believe that the Department's decision will benefit
consumers, enhance competition, and preserve jobs in the airline
industry," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray
In the final order issued today, the Department granted immunity to
new alliance member Continental and allowed Air Canada, Deutsche
Lufthansa Airlines, United Air Lines, and Continental Airlines to
place a portion of their international air services within a new
joint venture, to be called Atlantic Plus-Plus. Under
the venture, the carriers will jointly arrange capacity, sales and
marketing, as well as share revenues in international markets.
The Department concluded that granting antitrust immunity to
Continental to join the alliance and approving the joint venture
was in the public interest because it would support increased
levels of service in international markets served by the carriers,
give consumers more travel options and shorter travel times, and
reduce fares. The United States has open-skies aviation
agreements with all of the home countries of the carriers involved
in today's decision. Open-skies agreements provide for
international market access to all home-country airlines.
Following comments from the Department of Justice and other
parties on DOT's April 7 tentative decision, the Department placed
new limitations on the immunity in several markets to preserve
competition. These limitations, also called "carve outs,"
affect four transatlantic markets, four markets between the United
States and Canada, and all markets between the United States and
Beijing, China. The Star carriers may continue to serve these
routes, but they will not be covered by the grant of immunity at
As a condition of obtaining antitrust immunity, the Department
required the carriers to implement the new joint venture within 18
months. The carriers also must provide annual reports to the
Department about the implementation of their alliance
agreements. The Department stressed that the carriers would
remain subject to antitrust laws with respect to domestic
The Department first granted immunity to Star Alliance partners
in 1996, when it approved an alliance between United and
Lufthansa. Other members of the alliance are Air Canada,
Austrian Airlines, British Midland Airways, LOT Polish Airlines,
Scandinavian Airlines System, Swiss International Air Lines, and
TAP Air Portugal.