On 11 October 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a competition investigation into the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement. In line with the approach of the European Commission when it first investigated the agreement during 2009 to 2010, the investigation is being conducted under the rules on agreements restrictive of competition which, for the UK, are in the Chapter I prohibition in the Competition Act 1998 and, to the extent applicable, Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Four airlines are currently signed up to the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement: American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair.
Following an investigation under EU competition law, in 2010 the European Commission accepted commitments from the parties in relation to 6 routes to address potential competition concerns: London-Dallas, London-Boston, London-Miami, London-Chicago, London-New York and Madrid-Miami. These included a commitment to make landing and take-off slots available to competitors at either London Heathrow airport or London Gatwick airport. These commitments were binding for 10 years. See the Commission’s Commitments Decision for more information.
On expiry of the parties’ commitments, due in 2020, the European Commission may re-assess the agreement, but there is no requirement for it to do so. As 5 of the 6 routes subject to commitments are from the UK, and to prepare for the time when the European Commission may no longer have responsibility for competition in the UK, the CMA has decided to review afresh the competitive impact of the agreement in anticipation of the expiry of the commitments.
This case is at an early stage and no assumption should be made that the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement infringes competition law.
Further detail of the CMA’s procedures in Competition Act 1998 cases is available in our guidance.
- Parties under investigation: American Airlines Group Inc; International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (including British Airways plc and Iberia Líneas Aéreas de España SA); and Finnair OYJ.
- The CMA is liaising with the European Commission and the United States Department of Transportation in relation to the investigation.