The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted final approval for Aer Lingus to join the existing transatlantic joint venture with American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia.

The decision provides antitrust immunity for the Irish carrier to cooperate within the so-called ‘Oneworld Transatlantic Joint Venture’, on network planning, pricing and sales activities.

Aer Lingus – owned by British Airways and Iberia parent company IAG – applied to join the joint business in 2018, and was given tentative approval last month.

The airline also looks set to launch transatlantic flights from Manchester in summer 2021, after securing over 1,500 slots at the airport.

Aer Lingus to launch transatlantic flights from Manchester

In a statement confirming the approval, DOT said:

“The action by the Department is described in a Final Order adopting the tentative decision published on November 16, 2020, which examined the impact on competition and the expected public benefits.

“As part of the final approval, the Final Order includes conditions to address concerns related to competition, to preserve consumer choice, to ensure that the grant of antitrust immunity is in the public interest, and to allow the Department to monitor and assess the benefits produced by the proposed joint venture.

“Under the Final Order, the carriers are required to continue to comply with certain slot remedies at London airports that were imposed when the Oneworld transatlantic joint venture was initially approved in 2010, and as have been extended by the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) while it completes its own investigation into the Oneworld transatlantic joint venture.  In addition, the carriers are required to remove exclusivity clauses in their alliance agreements and to review the alliance after five years.”

In September the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) extended the terms of the current IAG / American Airlines transatlantic join business agreement by three years, following an agreement by British Airways and American Airlines to give up a number of London-US slots to address competition concerns.

The ten-year agreement had been due for renewal this year, but having considered the commitments the CMA said that “the uncertainty created by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on the aviation sector” means that it would not be appropriate to accept them at this time.

Aer Lingus provided Business Traveller with the following statement:

“Aer Lingus welcomes the decision by the US Department of Transportation to grant antitrust immunity to enable us join the transatlantic joint business between American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

“The transatlantic joint business has brought significant benefits to millions of passengers since its launch in 2010. Customers have benefited from lower fares and easier journeys to more destinations with better aligned schedules and frequencies.

“The addition of Aer Lingus’ Dublin hub and its complementary network will significantly enhance customers’ travel options and add new European destinations not currently served by any other transatlantic joint business. Aer Lingus’ customers will also obtain access to more than 200 new US destinations via the AJB network.”