Lufthansa, UCH offer slots for antitrust approval

Lufthansa and United Continental Holdings may give up airport slots in Frankfurt and New York to call off an antitrust probe of their A Plus-Plus transatlantic venture. Air Canada is also part of the venture.

According to a European Commission statement, European Union regulators are seeking comments from competitors and customers on the offer that would allow rivals to launch up to seven weekly flights between Frankfurt and New York JFK or Newark.

In 2009, the EC opened antitrust investigations into the A Plus-Plus transatlantic cooperation between the Star Alliance members.

A Lufthansa spokesperson told ATW, “This has nothing to do with Star Alliance, it is a topic of our A Plus-Plus transatlantic joint venture. While we do not share the concerns raised in the preliminary assessment, the A Plus-Plus carriers prefer a pragmatic resolution and have thus been discussing with the Commission commitments for the Frankfurt-New York route that are similar to commitments given in other alliance cases.”

Lufthansa operates daily Boeing 747-400 service on the Frankfurt-Newark route; United Continental operates 2X-daily Boeing 767-400 service. Lufthansa also operates a 2X-daily Airbus A330/A340 Frankfurt-New York JFK service. Delta Air Lines operates Boeing 767 Frankfurt-New York JFK service; Singapore Airlines uses one Airbus A380 on its New York JFK route.

Competitors may choose which arrival and departure slots at Frankfurt and New York they take on to allow as many as seven additional weekly flights, the offer states. This could rise to 21 weekly flights if a rival pulls out of the route.

The airlines’ rivals and customers have one month to tell regulators whether the offer would answer antitrust concerns.
ATW, 21 December 2012