Fearing antitrust violations, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) opposes the Department of Transportation (DOT) granting antitrust immunity to the SkyTeam alliance, which includes Delta and Northwest Airlines. The two airlines have recently announced their intention to merge pending U.S. government review.
ASTA urged the DOT to defer a decision on antitrust immunity and said its concerns include potential price fixing and unfair negotiating advantages with travel agencies. The Sky Team alliance includes Alitalia, Czech Airlines, Delta and Air France as well as Northwest and KLM.
"The (DOT) order, if finalized as it stands, would allow these multiple large airlines—including for the first time ever two U.S. domestic carriers—to collectively fix prices, determine capacity, set customer service standards and negotiate with travel agencies and other travel intermediaries with complete impunity," ASTA noted in its pleading.
The SkyTeam alliance is seeking a broad grant of antitrust immunity from DOT to coordinate transatlantic operations with each other. ASTA believes these types of airline marketing and operational practices should be the subject of fierce competition between the two alliances, rather than immunized collusion.
"If immunity is granted before the Justice Department inquiry has been completed into the Delta/Northwest merger, and the airlines begin to implement the integration of their transatlantic operations, the competitive impact of the merger will be skewed, needlessly complicating the Justice Department analysis," ASTA stated, urging delay until a joint U.S. European Union study is completed. Visit www.asta.org.