Lawmakers support oneworld expansion

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American Airlines Inc. and other airlines involved in the pursuit of antitrust immunity to create a jointly shared revenue agreement that would expand the oneworld alliance said that 43 state governors, 28 U.S. senators and 133 representatives are supporting the airlines’ application for immunity.

As previously reported, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines, is trying to gain approval to further its alliance with oneworld partners British Airways, Iberia Airlines, Finnair and Royal Jordanian. The airlines have contended since filing their initial application that they should receive the same antitrust immunity as the Star and SkyTeam alliances.

The five airlines involved confirmed Tuesday that they have filed letters from elected leaders who support the initiative with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

American Airlines’ agreement with the other airlines would allow them to jointly share certain revenue and make decisions about marketing, flight schedules and other business-related issues without encountering antitrust issues on certain global travel initiatives.

“Putting oneworld on an equal footing with other airline alliances is vital and will be a positive for Fort Worth,” said U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth. “More competition among airline alliances will bring more travel choices with a combined route network and provide more seamless service among American, British Airways and Iberia.”

The airlines also indicated that 129 U.S. airports have expressed their support in giving the alliance antitrust immunity.

The oneworld alliance partners also will be working through the European Union’s regulatory process to try to receive the approvals needed in that region.

But the alliance has not been without its critics.

The Allied Pilots Association, a union representing American Airline pilots, asked the federal government late last year to delay ruling on the antitrust issue until a thorough examination of the agreement is complete. The association asserted that the airline is required to negotiate with the pilots union before moving forward with the partnership.

The president of Virgin Atlantic airlines Sir Richard Branson also wrote letters to presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama before Obama’s 2008 election win, warning them about the proposed alliance’s potential to stifle competition on “major transatlantic routes.”