Qantas and American Airlines submit final remarks

Proposed Joint Business Agreement "virtually unopposed"

Image Credit: Max Faulkner, Star Telegram

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Qantas and American Airlines this week made their final push to convince US officials to approve a proposed Joint Business Agreement (JBA) as it weighs the pros and cons. In their joint reply to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the airlines reiterated the need for an expedited decision, emphasising the wide-ranging support and benefits antitrust immunity will provide, and which has been “virtually unopposed”.

“The public record in this matter is voluminous, and now complete. And the message from that record is unambiguous,” the carriers told the Trump Administration in response to its notice of establishing a procedural schedule last month.

Qantas and American Airlines once again highlighted: the consumer benefits of the JBA were estimated at US$310 million annually (of which the Sydney–Dallas route generates one-third); the improved travel of quality to Australasia; lower connecting fares (almost 8%) derived from revenue pooling compared to interline/codesharing; and cheaper non-stop airfares.

“There is widespread support for the Proposed JBA,” the oneworld alliance members said.

“It has been approved by the regulatory authorities in Australia and New Zealand, and the Department has received signatures from 1,138 supporters across many constituencies, including 64 U.S. state and local officials, 17 airports, 825 travel agents, 45 business associations, 87 individual corporations, and 26 other non-profits, universities, and organisations from 37 US States and 28 countries in the Americas and Australasia.”

Citing the “significant record evidence of substantial consumer benefits” and an absence of any “substantial complaints”, the Department should “promptly approve and grant ATI [antitrust immunity],” QF and AA said.

The airlines acknowledged Dallas/Fort Worth Airport’s response last week in which it expressed concerns at the “additional harms and inconvenience to travellers” if antitrust immunity is knocked back and Qantas subsequently terminates its direct service to the Texan gateway, thereby “crippling the airport’s ability to compete with other gateways”.

Qantas and American also noted JetBlue Airways’ submission, in which it suggested that the DOT limit its grant of ATI to three to five years. They responded by saying given the deep level of “integration planned for the Proposed JBA and the nature of the joint investments and infrastructure improvements contemplated, any review of ATI by the Department should be no sooner than five years after implementation”.

In closing, the carriers stated:

“The consumer benefits of metal-neutral JBAs are clear and proven. The Proposed JBA is virtually unopposed, and no party has disputed that the Proposed JBA will unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to travellers between the United States and Australasia. Accordingly, American and Qantas respectfully request that the Department expeditiously approve the Proposed JBA and grant ATI.”

Separately, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has this week announced plans to add four further gates at Terminal D by 2022. Terminal D is the primary hub for foreign flights into and out of DFW and already houses 28 gates. It is also the location where Qantas passengers embark and disembark flights.

The expansion comes as DFW plans for continued growth, with passenger counts expected to surpass 70 million in 2019, Dallas News reported.

Lead image credit: Max Faulkner, Star Telegram

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