By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, May 23 (Reuters) - Lufthansa, United Airlines, Continental and Air Canada won approval from EU antitrust regulators on Thursday for their transatlantic tie-up after agreeing to give up airport slots in Frankfurt and New York.
The four airlines’ revenue-sharing, pricing and capacity pacts triggered an investigation by European Commission regulators four years ago, over concerns that these may result in higher prices for premium passengers.
The carriers offered concessions last year, including allowing competitors to sell tickets on the Frankfurt-New York route, and giving them access to their connecting traffic.
“This decision is a further milestone in our effort to create a level playing field on transatlantic aviation markets, following our decision on oneworld in 2010,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
Reuters reported in February that EU regulators would accept the airlines’ proposals, with no finding of infringement nor fines, which could be as much as 10 percent of revenues for companies found in breach of the regulations.
United acquired Continental Airlines in 2010 to form the world’s biggest airline. The carriers are part of Star Alliance, the biggest airline marketing group, with 27 members.
The Commission approved a tighter transatlantic alliance between British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia in July 2010. All three are members of the broader oneworld alliance.