U.S. gives final OK for Aer Lingus to join transatlantic joint venture

By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Irish airline Aer Lingus received final U.S. approval on Monday to join a transatlantic joint venture with other major airlines.
The US Department of Transportation granted Aer Lingus preliminary approval in November to join American Airlines, British Airways, OpenSkies, Iberia and Finnair.
With this announcement, the joint venture will control more than half of the passenger airline market between the US and Ireland. The approval will integrate Aer Lingus into the company's network planning, pricing and sales.
Aer Lingus did not respond immediately.
Aer Lingus controls 44% of the US-Ireland flight market, a figure that will rise to 60% for the alliance.
In 2015, the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and OpenSkies, acquired Aer Lingus. The group applied in 2018 to allow Aer Lingus to join the alliance.
Despite Allianz's majority market share, the US regulator identified steps that would encourage competition.
As a condition of approval, the department suggested that the company comply with obligations to clear landing and take-off gate slots at London airports for competitors. These were imposed when the alliance was first approved in 2010.
In addition, the transportation department noted the presence of a strong competitor outside the alliance. It said the second largest airline in the Irish US. Market, low-cost airline Norwegian, "has shown an aggressive ability to challenge established airlines in the transatlantic market with their low-fare pricing model."
The department also argued that new aircraft models would allow airlines to fly transatlantic routes with fewer seats and lower costs.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney)

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