EU probe into transatlantic airline alliance nears end

European competition enforcers on Wednesday indicated that a probe into a transatlantic tie-up between British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia may be about to close.

The companies have "offered to make landing and take-off slots available at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and/or New York John F. Kennedy airports to facilitate entry of competitors on routes to New York, Boston, Dallas and Miami," the European Commission said in a statement.

Inviting comments from rivals, Brussels said if the reaction from the market is broadly positive, then the commission could adopt a decision "making the commitments legally binding on the parties."

That, in effect, would mark the end of formal processes against the trio.

Competition watchdogs opened their investigation in April 2009, warning that an agreement to cooperate on flights between North America and Europe, which the companies said would help overcome soaring fuel costs and falling demand, "may harm consumers on transatlantic routes."

The commission's concerns, submitted formally to the companies in September, centred on "extensive cooperation" stretching to "revenue-sharing and joint management of schedules, pricing and capacity," which it warned "may be in breach of EU antitrust rules."

Source: AFP

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