European Union antitrust regulators said Friday
they had opened an investigation into partnership deals between Air
France-KLM, Alitalia and Delta on flights between the bloc and the
Under scrutiny is a joint venture between the Franco-Dutch, Italian and U.S. airlines foreseeing the full coordination of "transatlantic operations with respect to capacity, schedules, pricing and revenue management," as well as profit or loss-sharing.
In a statement, the European Commission said it wanted to check "whether the partnership may harm passengers" on those EU-US routes where the joint venture has closed off competition between the allied airlines.
Air France-KLM, Alitalia and Delta are all members of the SkyTeam global airline alliance.
The commission is tasked with policing the E.U.'s tough antitrust laws, and can force companies to amend their cooperative dealings and even slap hefty fines if it can prove that they have formed anti-competitive cartels.
In 2010, it obliged British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia - three members of a rival global airline alliance, Oneworld -- to free up slots for competitors at London's Heathrow airport.
However, Air France-KLM, Alitalia and Delta escaped from the commission's attention on another dossier.
The E.U. executive said it had closed a separate, six-year antitrust probe on cooperation deals involving the three airlines, as well as four other SkyTeam members -- Aeromexico, Continental Airlines, Czech Airlines and Korean Air Lines.
The decision was taken "in the light of significant changes in the circumstances on the relevant markets," the Brussels-based body said.
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