By Claire West

British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia have received the regulatory green light to operate a joint business on transatlantic flights. Following European Union approval on July 14, the airlines have now been granted anti-trust immunity from the US Department of Transportation.

British Airways chief executive, Willie Walsh, said: “This final approval is fantastic news for all three airlines and the oneworld alliance. We’ve waited 14 years to bring the benefits of the transatlantic joint business to our customers and level the playing field with the other two global alliances. As we have argued all along, the EU-US market is highly competitive and Heathrow’s liberalisation in 2008 opened it up even further. We are delighted that the US and EU authorities have recognised this.

“We’re pleased that the DOT and EU have worked together to ensure that there is consistency in the number of slots that the three airlines have to give up for our competitors to use on services from Heathrow to the US.”

American Airlines chief executive, Gerard Arpey, said: “This is a great day for the customers, employees and shareholders of American Airlines and our joint business partners in the oneworld alliance. We thank all of the regulators who reviewed our proposals, both here in the United States and in Europe, and all those persons and organisations that supported us in this effort. We look forward to delivering enhanced competition for customers on transatlantic flights. By working collaboratively, we will enhance our product offerings, strengthen our route networks and better position our airlines to compete in an ever-changing global aviation marketplace.”

Iberia’s executive chairman, Antonio Vazquez, said: “We’re delighted we have received approval for our joint business as it will be very positive for our employees, our shareholders and, most important of all, our customers. A new kind of collaboration between our three airlines will lead to better service levels for our customers. This means that our customers will have more destinations to choose from around the world, better scheduled travel times, better connections and more competitive fares. I am convinced that consolidation is the best and only way to succeed in the airline industry, and the approval we have received today to create a joint business is a very important step towards this consolidation process.”

The airlines plan to launch the transatlantic joint business this autumn and will co-operate commercially on flights between the EU, Switzerland and Norway and the US, Canada and Mexico. Customers will be able to travel more easily on all three airlines’ combined route network that will serve 433 destinations in 105 countries with 5,178 daily departures, providing more frequent and convenient schedule options than any of the three carriers could offer individually. By working together, the airlines will expand customer choice by supporting routes that would not be economically viable for a single airline.

Customers will also benefit from greater access to discounted fares, expanded opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and elite tier benefits on flights and continued reciprocal airport lounge access.

Fellow oneworld members Finnair and Royal Jordanian also received antitrust immunity from the US Department of Transportation.