Lawmakers from Texas are asking incoming Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for speedy action on a pending antitrust application from Houston-based Continental Airlines.
Both Texas senators and 30 Texas House members signed a letter to LaHood dated Jan. 23. The letter comes amid a last-minute push by the carrier to gain approval for an antitrust immunity deal by Continental, United Airlines and Germany’s Lufthansa on overseas routes. The airlines want to enter a partnership allowing them to share information on scheduling and ticket pricing. Without a grant of antitrust immunity from regulators, working as partners would be illegal.
Airlines view “immunized” alliances as one of the few tools they have to bring about business cooperation on cross-border routes. However, airline unions have demanded tighter scrutiny of such deals. Senate Judiciary Committee leaders are also demanding that U.S. regulators strengthen the review process.
In the letter, the lawmakers said the agreement would help ensure Continental’s long-term competitiveness in domestic and international markets and allow the carrier to compete effectively against Delta Air Lines, which last year took control of Northwest in a merger.
“Any delay will have significant and negative impacts on the competitive landscape in the airline industry at a time when no company can afford to be in a non-competitive position, especially as a result of inaction by the government,” the letter said.