Air France A320. By Rob Finlayson

The European Commission (EC) has opened an investigation to assess whether the transatlantic joint venture (JV) between Air France-KLM (AF-KL), Alitalia (AZ) and Delta Air Lines (DL) breaches EU antitrust rules (ATW Daily News, July 7, 2010).

“The Commission will investigate whether the partnership may harm passengers on certain EU-US routes where, in the absence of the joint venture, the parties would be providing competing services,” it said in a statement Friday. Under terms of the JV, concluded in 2009 and 2010, the SkyTeam carriers fully coordinate their transatlantic operations with respect to capacity, schedules, pricing and revenue management. They also share profits and losses on their transatlantic flights.

The EC noted the investigation is “coherent with the Commission's recent enforcement action in relation to the transatlantic joint ventures of the two other airline alliances,” oneworld and Star Alliances. 

The EC formally opened antitrust proceedings into the planned transatlantic JV between British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia in April 2009. It cleared the JV of the three oneworld airlines in July 2010 after they accepted a series of legally binding commitments to address the EC’s competition concerns (ATW Daily News, Oct. 6, 2010). The antitrust probe into the transatlantic cooperation between Star members Air Canada, Lufthansa, Continental Airlines and United Airlines was opened in April 2009 and is still ongoing, the EC confirmed to ATW (ATW Daily News, June 29, 2011).

Meanwhile, the EC has closed its investigation into cooperation agreements between eight SkyTeam members that began in 2006 when the member airlines wereAeromexico, AF, KL, AZ, CO, Czech Airlines, DL, and Korean Air Lines. CO has since merged with UA and left SkyTeam for Star. “This decision was taken as part of the priority-setting process in light of significant changes in the circumstances on the relevant markets. The closure of proceedings does not, however, relieve the SkyTeam members from assessing their behavior and ensuring that they comply with EU competition law,” the EC said.