SkyTeam alliance receives anti-trust immunity for trans-Atlantic operations from US Dept of Transportation

Even as skyrocketing fuel costs are casting a pall of gloom over the airline industry, there would be some reason to cheer for SkyTeam partners, such as Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Air France-KLM, CSA Czech Airlines and Alitalia with the US Dept of Transportation (DoT) yesterday announcing a grant of trans-Atlantic, anti-trust immunity to their operations.

The SkyTeam partners now will be able to "coordinate their trans-atlantic fares, services and capacity as if they were a single carrier in these markets, subject to certain conditions," DoT said, adding that the approval is unrelated to DL's and NWA's merger plans, which would be subject to a separate review.

DOT said the alliance "is in the public interest because it features a proposed new and highly integrated joint venture that will likely produce efficiencies and provide consumers with additional price and service options," but that the alliance must be implemented within 18 months as a condition of immunity.

With the decision DoT upheld a tentative approval which it had issued last month.

NWA president and CEO, Doug Steenland, said, "This enhanced ability to coordinate among the carriers will provide a more positive, seamless experience for our customers with single-ticketing, seamless baggage handling and greater customer ease and convenience. It is also good news in light of skyrocketing fuel costs."

SkyTeam has 11 member airlines and operates 16,409 daily flights to 841 destinations in 162 countries.