The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has extended interim measures requiring BA and AA to offer slots on three UK-US routes to independent competitor airlines, as part of an ongoing investigation of the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement (AJBA).
The investigation was launched in 2018, but has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic – in May 2020 the CMA said that the two carriers had agreed to make slots available at either Heathrow or Gatwick airports “as part of a wider package of measures to resolve competition concerns regarding their joint business on certain routes between the UK and US”.
The CMA says that it cannot complete the investigation until the airline sector stablilises, and with this taking longer than had been envisaged back at the start of the pandemic, the authority says that it will not able to conclude its work before March 2024, when commitments originally made by the two airlines back in 2010 will expire.
As a result the CMA says that BA and AA must continue to offer four daily airport slots on three UK-US routes to competitor airlines until March 2026.
The routes affected are London to Dallas and Miami (one slot each), and London to Boston (two slots).
United Airlines took advantage of one of the London-Boston slots, announcing plans to launch Heathrow flights in February 2021 – this route was subsequently scheduled to start this spring.
It is also understood that Jetblue is gearing up to officially confirm its much-trailed Boston-London route in the coming days, with a launch date of this summer. Londonairtravel.com reports that these slots have been leased from Qatar Airways.
A tender process is set to take place in August 2023, allowing airlines to apply to operate services using the above AJBA slots during the extended interim period.
The AJBA is made up of five carriers – Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia, with AA and BA “the key UK and US parties” to the agreement.