EU prompts antitrust probe on Oneworld airline alliance

European Commission, the executive body of the 27-nation European Union (EU) has confirmed that it sent a statement of objections to the three members of the Oneworld airline alliance: British Airways, American Airlines and Spanish carrier Iberia, suspecting violation of antitrust regulations in relation to their proposed cooperation on transatlantic routes.

The Commission's statement of objections concerns agreements concluded between the three airlines, regarding the coordination of their commercial, operational and marketing activities in relation to passenger traffic on transatlantic routes, principally routes between the EU and North America.

Under these agreements, the members of the Oneworld alliance intend to jointly manage schedules, capacity and pricing, as well as share revenues on routes between US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico and EU, Norway and Switzerland.

The three airlines formed the alliance in August last year and the European Commission initiated the antitrust proceedings in April 2009. The airlines have also applied to US antitrust authorities for the approval of their agreements, and a ruling is expected by the end of the month.

A statement of objections by the Commission is a formal written communication to the parties concerned, of the objections raised against them. The party can respond in writing to the objections, setting out all the related facts for its defence.

The regulator may then take a decision on whether the conduct addressed in the statement of objections complies with the European Commission Treaty's antitrust rules.