The U.S. Department of Justice said American, British Airways and Iberia should give up airport slots and relinquish key routes before the Department of Transportation grants the airlines antitrust immunity on transatlantic routes.
Granting these Oneworld alliance carriers antitrust immunity without concessions would lead to harmed competition and a 15% fare increase, said the DOJ.
The DOJ advises the DOT on whether to grant immunity, but the DOT has final say.
Despite the DOJ's concerns about an immunity request by Star Alliance members, the DOT approved the application in July. The DOT did require that Star exclude certain routes from the immunized alliance.
The DOJ publicly raised objections to Oneworld's request after months of behind-the-scenes wrangling between the two agencies failed to provide a compromise.
The DOJ is most concerned about the following London Heathrow routes: New York, Boston, Miami, Dallas and Chicago. The DOJ also cited Miami-Madrid. The DOJ said the airlines should surrender some Heathrow slots.
The Justice Department also said the airlines couldn’t show why they needed antitrust immunity to provide the public benefits they say passengers will see antitrust-immunized service.
U.S. aviation analysts have been saying for months that it appeared the DOT would grant Oneworld's immunity request despite concerns raised by competitors and the DOJ. They expected the decision to be announced by year’s end or the beginning of 2010.
The Oneworld partners need to collaborate on transatlantic routes to keep pace with rival alliances Star and SkyTeam, analysts said.