United Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Continental Airlines have applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for antitrust immunity to enable the three airlines to create a transpacific joint venture.
The three Star Alliance member airlines claim their joint venture would generate substantial service and pricing benefits for consumers ― though the U.S. Department of Justice might beg to differ, taking on several occasions a view that such international JVs are essentially anti-competitive.
The airlines also say their transpacific joint venture ― the first of its kind between the U.S. and Asia ― would enable United, ANA and Continental to compete more effectively with other global alliances, each of which has a significant presence in Tokyo.
Upon DOT approval of the companies’ immunity application, United, ANA and Continental would be able to manage jointly their transpacific activities, including scheduling, pricing and sales. This, they say, would let them offer customers a greater selection of routings and a wider range of fare and service options.
“This joint venture, coupled with the recently announced open skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan, will significantly enhance our ability to serve customers in Japan and throughout Asia and offer new choice and convenience for customers,” says Glenn Tilton, United’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“By making this closer cooperation between our partner airlines, we will be able to strengthen our trans-Pacific network and improve our services,” says Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of ANA. “We are looking forward for our application to be approved, which will create greater convenience for our valued customers.”
“Our network of service to nine Japanese cities will be enhanced by giving our customers more options for using our flights in conjunction with United and ANA for trips both within the region as well as on transpacific routes,” says Larry Kellner, Continental’s outgoing chairman and chief executive officer. (Kellner will had over the rains at Continental to Jeff Smisek, currently the airline’s COO, at the turn of the year.)
The Department of Transportation granted antitrust immunity to United and Continental in July 2009, enabling the two carriers to coordinate schedules and fares for services outside the United States.