British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas), American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth), OpenSkies (LV, Paris Orly), and Finnair (AY, Helsinki Vantaa) filed a motion with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) on December 21, 2018, seeking antitrust immunity (ATI) for the addition Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l) to their existing transatlantic joint business agreement.

"On October 23, 2017, the Parties entered into the JBA, which will include, subject to a grant of antitrust immunity, Aer Lingus in the immunized Existing JBA with American, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair. The JBA, which provides Aer Lingus freedom to price independently and codeshare with non-JBA carriers, will not only ensure that Aer Lingus’ value-carrier model is preserved but will expand its reach," the carrier said in a filing.

The airlines expect that the expanded JBA would generate up to USD96 million in annual consumer benefits through increased codesharing options, adding new destinations in the US by Aer Lingus, adding Dublin Int'l as a new hub for the JBA carriers, facilitating cargo demand, lowering fares, and stimulating demand.

The applicants further argue that the ATI would be compliant with the DOT's long-standing practice of extending existing JBAs to cover the subsidiaries of participating airlines. ENT!IAG, a parent of British Airways and Iberia, has owned Aer Lingus since 2015 and the acquisition was already reviewed by the DOT on competitive grounds.

The JBA has been in existence since 2010, with Finnair joining in 2013. OpenSkies was initially a member as a subsidiary of British Airways but following the corporate restructuring - it is now a unit of IAG's LEVEL - became a party to the JBA in its own right.

In terms of its membership in the global partnerships, Aer Lingus remains somewhat distant from its parent as it is neither a member of the transatlantic JBA nor of Oneworld.

According to the ch-aviation capacity module, Aer Lingus currently operates 81 weekly roundtrips between Ireland and North America, connecting Dublin with 12 destinations in the US and Toronto Pearson, and additionally Shannon with Boston and New York JFK. The Irish carrier has a 2.19% market share by capacity between Europe and North America.

Based on the data for the week commencing on December 24, 2018, pending the approval of the expanded JBA, all participating airlines would have a 22.67% market share by capacity between Europe and North America.