The boundary between acceptable and non-acceptable practices in airline alliances is very narrow, in particular, due to different legal regimes applicable to international air transport. The term ‘airline alliance’ has never been legally defined. In each case, it is investigated by competent competition law authorities on a case-by-case basis subject to locally applicable laws and enforcement practices. The main purpose of this chapter is to identify forbidden practices and agreements commonly concluded between carriers as part of their airline alliances in view of the EU law.
From the European law perspective, the answer theoretically arises from the ban included in Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which covers many practices that are present within airline alliances. However, the European Commission has usually declared this clause inapplicable pursuant to Article 101(3) TFEU. Moreover, the rules used to assess airline alliances are not internationally unified. Therefore, any arrangement between airlines is subject to various aspects of competition law compliance.
Consequently, this chapter will attempt to identify all sources of rules based on which airline alliance practices and agreements are allowed or forbidden in the EU. It will also show how the same practices and agreements can be treated differently by separate competition law authorities.