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United And BMI Could Get Anti Trust Immunity

The US Department of transport ghas said that if a UK US agreement is found...

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and BMI British Midland Airways can have antitrust immunity for an alliance if the US and UK agree on expanding airline access to each other's countries within the next six months, the US Department of Transportation has said.

The antitrust immunity, which also would apply to partners of the two airlines in the Star Alliance, would increase travel options and competition in the US and the trans Atlantic markets, the department said in a statement.

However, the US and the UK probably will not agree on expanded access during the period set by the department, said Moffett Roller, a Washington attorney, who practices international aviation law. ?The DOT is laying out the framework for what it would like to see happen, but that doesn't mean it will,? he said.

Airlines want to expand global alliances as a way to reduce competition and costs. That push has intensified since the US recession and the September 11th terrorist attacks cut travel demand and caused losses at most carriers. Antitrust immunity lets carriers operate much like a single airline, coordinating schedules, prices and services, while keeping separate corporate identities.