The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Continental Airlines’ application to join the Star Alliance and get antitrust immunity for much of its dealings with other airlines.
Despite that, U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., has not abandoned his attempts to stop those alliances that have been given immunity from antitrust laws.
In his latest effort, he is asking National Economic Council director Lawrence H. Summers to join him in asking that the federal government take a new look at antitrust immunity for such alliances:
“I am convinced that allowing these immunized mega-alliances to proceed unchecked will, in the end, be trading government control in the public interest for private monopoly control in the interests of the industry.
“Accordingly, I urge you to support a re-examination of competition policy governing the granting of antitrust immunity to airline alliances, and a sunset of existing grants of immunity.”
A House bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration contains his language to require a study by the General Accounting Office and would put an automatic end to antitrust immunity for alliances after three years. Alliances then would have to reapply for antitrust immunity.