The Department of Transportation has given final approval to
a joint venture between American Airlines and Qantas.
With the decision, the pair will form the third antitrust-immune
alliance in the U.S.-Australasia market, thereby authorizing the carriers to
jointly schedule, market and operate flights. Delta-Virgin Australia and
United-Air New Zealand already operate joint ventures between the U.S.,
Australia and New Zealand.
Qantas said Friday that the approval means it and American
will announce new codeshare routes in the coming days. Qantas has also said it
will launch Brisbane-Chicago and Brisbane-San Francisco service by the end of
next April as a result of the joint-venture approval.
American-Qantas is the first joint venture that the Trump
administration DOT has wholly reviewed, although the department also approved
an updated Delta-Korean Air joint venture application in November 2017.
The approval reverses the DOT's rejection of a previous
American-Qantas application during the waning weeks of the Obama administration
in 2016. The department said market conditions have evolved enough to mitigate
any harm an American-Qantas joint venture would cause to competition in the
U.S-Australasia market. The carriers' combined U.S.-Australia nonstop capacity
has dropped from 59% to 54% during that time, according the DOT.
As conditions for granting antitrust immunity, the DOT is
requiring that American and Qantas report annually on the progress of their
commercial cooperation and provide a detailed assessment after seven years. The
assessment is to undergo a comprehensive, data-driven review by the department
based on clear benchmarks laid out in the approval.
Friday's decision follows the administration's tentative approval
of the carriers' joint venture application early last month.