Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines has filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to require British Airways (BA) to produce new studies and documents in connection with its pending application, along with American Airlines (AA), for immunity from United States antitrust laws in order to form an alliance that would allow the two airlines to operate as though they were a single, merged entity.
Recent media reports state that British Airways has completed a major strategic planning study commissioned by the airline`s chief executive officer, Rod Eddington. The media reports say the internal study`s recommendations include the possibility that British Airways may abandon all short-haul flights and withdraw flight operations at London`s Gatwick Airport in order to focus its operations at the more centrally located London Heathrow Airport.
Continental, Delta and Northwest petitioned the DOT on Friday that the planning studies should be filed immediately in the AA/BA Antitrust Immunity matter, so that the DOT and all interested parties can carefully review the study to see what impact the possible plans might have on the proposed American Airlines/British Airways alliance.
The three airlines said in their filing, “If it is true that British Airways may withdraw all of its short-haul services (including those at Heathrow), that completely undermines the Joint Applicants` purported justification for establishing a transatlantic alliance.”
The filing continued, “It confirms what the Petitioners have been saying all along—that the alliance`s real strategic purpose is not to provide network connectivity for U.S.-Europe transfer passengers, but rather to focus almost exclusively on capturing long-haul U.S.-London Heathrow gateway passengers.”
The Continental, Delta and Northwest filing added, “A decision by British Airways to withdraw all of its short-haul intra-European services would effectively eliminate the alleged network benefits of the American/British Airways alliance since there would be few, if any, connections to European cities beyond London.”
Dozens of U.S. senators, governors, airport officials and others have written to the DOT and the Department of Justice saying the so-called AA/BA alliance will put several regions of the United States at a competitive disadvantage in the international business arena, and will result in fewer choices and higher fares for travelers. The DOT rejected a similar request for antitrust immunity by American Airlines and British Airways in 1999.