European regulators are looking into a cooperation deal between Delta, Air France-KLM and Alitalia on flights between the US and Europe. The deal could be in breach of antitrust rules, the EU Commission says.
The European Commission said Friday it would 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."
The cooperation "could be in breach" of EU rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements, the EU competition watchdog said in a statement.
Under agreements signed between 2009 and 2010, the US, French and Italian air carriers fully coordinate the capacity, schedules, prices and revenue management of their transatlantic operations.
The airline alliance, named SkyTeam, also shares profits and losses on their transatlantic flights, which according to the EU antitrust regulators was "aimed at the alignment of the parties' commercial incentives."
The commission stated that its new investigation was "coherent" with its actions related to transatlantic joint ventures within the two other global alliances, Star and oneworld.
Shape up or break up
In 2010, EU Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia forced British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia - three members of rival airline alliance oneworld - to free up slots for competitors at London's Heathrow airport.
"The opening of a new investigation on the joint venture is logical since the commission has already opened similar probes regarding the other transatlantic joint ventures," an Air France-KLM spokeswoman told AFP news agency
She noted, however, that US authorities had already given the SkyTeam joint venture "antitrust immunity."
While a similar antitrust investigation of Star Alliance members Air Canada, Continental, Lufthansa and United was ongoing, the commission said it had closed a six-year probe into other cooperation deals made within the SkyTeam alliance.
Investigations launched against Aeromexico, Air France and its Dutch sister carrier KLM, Alitalia, Continental Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta, and Korean Air Lines had ended, the commission said, because of "significant changes in the circumstances on the relevant markets."
In the course of the probe, Continental merged with fellow US carrier United Airlines, which is part of the Star Alliance.
Author: Uwe Hessler (dpa, Reuters, AFP)