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EU Drops Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Probe of Japanese Flights

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- European Union antitrust regulators dropped a probe into carriers including Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG over possible price-fixing on Japanese flights.

Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, Europe’s two biggest airlines, said in March 2008 that EU regulators searched their offices as part of a probe involving passenger flights on routes from Europe and Japan.

Recent air-service accords with fares now “freely set” are among the reasons for dropping the case, Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for the Brussels-based European Commission, said in an e-mailed statement.

Cooperation between airlines has triggered two recent EU probes into ticket-sales agreements. Regulators also fined carriers including Air France-KLM, British Airways Plc and Japan Airlines Corp. last year over colluding on air-cargo fuel and security surcharges.

Lufthansa flies to Japanese cities including Tokyo and Osaka from its main hubs at Frankfurt and Munich. It cooperates with All Nippon Airways Co., Japan’s largest domestic carrier, through the Star Alliance, the world’s biggest airline grouping.

The EU’s decision to close the case confirms Lufthansa’s view that it “always conformed to antitrust regulations,” Boris Ogursky, a spokesman for the Cologne, Germany-based carrier, said in a telephone interview.

Air France-KLM spokesman Cedric Leurquin said the EU move “appears logical” because the airline “can, based on the terms of the bilateral air agreement between France and Japan, freely set its fares between the European Union and Japan.”

Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways earlier this year sought antitrust immunity from the Japanese government for a joint venture operating flights between Japan and Europe that began in October. All Nippon started a U.S.-Japan venture with United Continental Holdings Inc. in April.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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