The European Commission is reported to have formally initiated proceedings in relation to certain airlines’ existing and planned cooperation on transatlantic routes. The first investigation apparently concerns agreements between certain members of the Star Alliance, while the second investigation is said to target a proposed cooperation agreement between certain members of the Oneworld alliance. In both cases, the airlines involved represent some of the main players on transatlantic routes and are alleged to be contemplating a degree of cooperation that goes far beyond the standard cooperation within their respective alliances. The Commission will assess whether these agreements, which involve the joint management of schedules, capacity, pricing and revenue management on these routes, restrict competition and are therefore prohibited by Article 81(1) of the EC Treaty. The Commission has stated that it will also be considering any demonstrated consumer benefits that arise from such cooperation.
When the Commission takes the procedural step of initiating formal proceedings, this does not imply that the parties being investigated have infringed EC competition rules. Such a finding can only be made at the end of such proceedings, and there is no time limit for this.