The European Commission directorate general for competition
is investigating whether the transatlantic joint venture among Air France-KLM,
Alitalia and Delta Air Lines violates antitrust rules. Meanwhile, it is closing
a separate probe into a larger subset of SkyTeam carriers.
"The Commission will investigate whether the
partnership may harm passengers on certain EU-U.S. routes where, in the absence
of the joint venture, the parties would be providing competing services,"
according to an EC press alert.
The extent and duration of EC's investigation into Delta and
its partners "depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of
the case" and the extent of cooperation from the carriers.
"We remain confident we will resolve any concerns that
[the directorate general for competition] may have on this matter,"
according to a Delta statement. Air France-KLM did not immediately comment.
By closing a separate antitrust probe of eight SkyTeam carriers launched in 2000, EC is focusing on the joint venture partners
"as part of the priority-setting process." It cited "significant
changes in the circumstances on the relevant markets."
EC said the decision to end that earlier probe—which
examined cooperation among Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, Continental
Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta, KLM and Korean Air Lines—"does not
however relieve the SkyTeam members from assessing their behavior and ensuring
that they comply with EU competition law."
The EC also has investigated competing joint ventures,
namely those between Oneworld carriers American Airlines and British Airways,
and between Star Alliance partners United and Lufthansa. While the latter probe
is ongoing, EC concluded its investigation into AA and BA and required the
carriers to give up slots at key airports.