UK competition regulator to study British Airways trans-Atlantic alliance
On 11 October 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a competition investigation into the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement.
Four airlines are currently signed up to the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement: American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair.
Following an investigation under EU competition law, in 2010 the European Commission accepted commitments from the parties in relation to 6 routes to address potential competition concerns: London-Dallas, London-Boston, London-Miami, London-Chicago, London-New York and Madrid-Miami. These included a commitment to make landing and take-off slots available to competitors at either London Heathrow airport or London Gatwick airport. These commitments were binding for 10 years. See the Commission’s Commitments Decision for more information.
On expiry of the parties’ commitments, due in 2020, the European Commission may re-assess the agreement, but there is no requirement for it to do so. As 5 of the 6 routes subject to commitments are from the UK, and to prepare for the time when the European Commission may no longer have responsibility for competition in the UK, the CMA has decided to review afresh the competitive impact of the agreement in anticipation of the expiry of the commitments.
This case is at an early stage and no assumption should be made that the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement infringes competition law. ■