U.S., Japanese Airlines Win Approval for Alliance

Four U.S. and Japanese carriers including AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Japan Airlines Corp. won federal immunity from antitrust prosecution today for their partnerships on U.S.-Asia routes.

The U.S. Transportation Department found that the carriers’ cooperation in two separate alliances would improve competition, lower fares and increase schedule options, according to an agency statement.

American and Japan Air in February requested antitrust immunity for cooperating on pricing, routes and marketing for overseas flights as part of their Oneworld alliance.

United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United and Continental units and All Nippon Airways Co. made a similar immunity request in December for their Star Alliance. The department consolidated the requests into a single proceeding March 31.

United and Continental, which were separate carriers when they made the immunity request, merged Oct. 1.

The requests were made possible by a preliminary “Open Skies” agreement between the U.S. and Japan in December that struck down national limits on how many carriers can fly between the two countries and what prices they can charge. Japan has said it wouldn’t sign the agreement unless the U.S. granted immunity for its carriers.

The Transportation Department said in its statement today that the immunity approvals are contingent on a final “Open Skies” treaty being signed. The agency’s order won’t become effective until after a 21-day comment period.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hughes in Washington at jhughes5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.

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