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Immunity from competition law:
BA/AA OK? — May 2020

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How times change. Airline alliances, especially where immunity from competition law was involved, were once the subject of intense review and debate. Competition authorities almost competed among themselves to highlight the potential for anti-competitive behaviour and to devise painful remedies (painful for the applicants at least). Now it seems that such applications hardly raise an eyebrow and are regularly approved almost routinely.

The experience of the alliance between British Airways and American Airlines, now expanded to include other carriers, is a good example of this development, and it is worth going back to its beginning to see the full impact. When first proposed in the mid-1990s, the BA/AA alliance quickly received strong support from both the UK and US Governments. On the US side this reflected the fact that anti-trust approval would be accompanied by UK acceptance of an open skies bilateral agreement, and in particular by increased access for US airlines to Heathrow.


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