The European Commission on Tuesday approved a joint-venture between Alitalia, Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, allowing the companies to share costs and sales from routes between Europe and North America.
Margethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, closed a three-year antitrust probe into the group, which is part of the SkyTeam alliance, after the airlines made various concessions designed to boost competition on transatlantic flights. These included giving up valuable slots at airports in Rome, Amsterdam and New York, permission for rivals to sell tickets on their transatlantic flights and accepting frequent flyer miles accrued by passengers on other airlines.
“Airlines can cooperate to enlarge their network if it makes them more efficient and allows them to better serve their passengers,” Vestager said.
Despite the Commission’s inquiry, the parties continued to operate the joint-venture, which was created in Europe in 2009-10, a year after a similar structure had been approved in the US by the Department of Transportation.
The airline industry has formed three global alliances: SkyTeam, STAR Alliance and OneWorld. Within the alliances, members sell tickets on each others’ flights, and pool some operating costs, such as maintaining airport lounges.
The Commission already approved transatlantic JVs between STAR Alliance member airlines Lufthansa, United Continental and Air Canada, in 2013, and OneWorld member airlines British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia, in 2010.
These transatlantic joint-ventures — known as “metal neutral” — mark a deeper form of co-operation between the airlines, with them sharing virtually all costs and revenues on a given route. Now that the Commission has approved the three alliances’ transatlantic JVs, they may attempt to replicate the model on other routes.
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