American seeks antitrust immunity for alliance

Jul. 25--American Airlines Inc. said Tuesday that it has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to grant antitrust immunity to its alliance with four international carriers.

However, the list did not include British Airways PLC, its most important partner in the Oneworld alliance.

American wants to coordinate fare-setting, scheduling, frequent-flier programs, marketing, code-sharing and other activities with Iberia, Finnair, Malev Hungarian Airlines and Royal Jordanian Airlines, which belong to the Oneworld global airline alliance with American, British Airways, Japan Airlines and other carriers.

"We believe that an alliance with antitrust immunity is of vital strategic importance and will help us remain competitive with other trans-Atlantic alliances that already have such immunity," said Henry Joyner, American's senior vice president of planning.

American and British Airways have twice sought antitrust immunity for their trans-Atlantic partnership, which predates the Oneworld alliance. But antitrust regulators have required concessions that the carriers wouldn't accept.

American chairman and chief executive Gerard Arpey said last week that American was "in a dialogue" with British Airways about how to proceed.

"Certainly, our view would be that if immunity is granted to our competitors, that the antitrust body should begin to look at the competition between alliances rather than on the city-pair basis that they have looked historically," Mr. Arpey said.

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