Northwest Seeks OK for More Europe Links

Airlines typically don't get together to coordinate their schedules and pricing and divvy up customers. That's illegal.

For the most part. Over the years, about two dozen exceptions have been granted, including one for Northwest Airlines' alliance with Dutch carrier KLM.

And now Northwest wants another one.

The airline, Detroit's major carrier, is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to waive federal antitrust laws to permit it to set prices and make other financial and business decisions in conjunction with its SkyTeam partners Air France (which now owns KLM), Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and Delta Air Lines for international service.

In Washington, D.C., today, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland is to make his company's case for antitrust immunity when he addresses the International Aviation Club, a group that includes government officials.

Antitrust immunity, Northwest insists, is a prerequisite for its success in SkyTeam, the international alliance that it joined last September.

"This alliance is our opportunity to be a player in the North Atlantic," said Megan Rosia, Northwest's managing director of government affairs and associate general counsel.

Without the antitrust immunity, Northwest argues, it could be forced to reduce service or even withdraw from the trans-Atlantic market. That could mean the end of its three daily flights from Detroit to London, Amsterdam and Paris, as well as the demise of its trans-Atlantic service out of its hubs in Minneapolis and Memphis, Tenn.

To make trans-Atlantic service work, Northwest must feed passengers to European alliance partners and receive passengers from them in return, Rosia said.