AAI 2016 Airline Roundtable: The Changing Airline Competition Agenda

Dec 14

AAI 2016 Airline Roundtable: The Changing Airline Competition Agenda

Date: December 14, 2016
Location: National Press Club, Washington DC

On December 14, the American Antitrust Institute hosted its second annual Airline Roundtable. Experts in antitrust and regulation from government, industry, advocacy, and academia discussed major competition issues facing the airline industry and consumers of air travel. Recent antitrust and regulatory events in the airline industry made this an especially timely program, including developments involving Open Skies applications, requests for antitrust immunity, domestic mergers, and a renewed focus on distribution. This year's Roundtable focused on challenges to competition, with the goal of focusing antitrust and regulatory aviation policies to promote rivalry, innovation, and consumer benefits. The day included a "Year in Review," three panels, a luncheon speaker, and roundtable discussions.

Panel 1: Promoting Competition in U.S. Markets - Assessing Open Skies and Antitrust Immunity
This panel looked at challenges to opening domestic airline markets to competition. Panelists explored the debate surrounding the interface between international aviation and domestic competition, with an eye toward how consolidation between the large U.S. carriers has changed the equation. Among other questions, the panel assessed the current climate around, and issues raised by, Open Skies applications by foreign carriers and the regulatory framework governing grants of antitrust immunity for the international airline alliances. Panelists examined the effectiveness and balancing of antitrust and regulatory policies in facilitating competition and a consumer-facing aviation policy.

Panel 2: Slots, Gates, Airports, and Market Entry
This panel examined entry as a major enforcement and policy tool for promoting competition in U.S. markets. The U.S. Department of Justice has expressed concern over both unilateral and coordinated conduct involving domestic airlines. Unilateral concerns have arisen particularly at congested airports where takeoff and landing slots are valuable. Past remedies in airline enforcement actions have focused on market entry through access to slots and gates. Panelists considered whether these actions adequately promote competition and protect consumers. They also considered the likely impact of regulatory initiatives involving slot allocation rules and proposals to privatize the air traffic control system on competition and consumers.

Panel 3: The State of Air Travel Distribution
We focused on the importance of air travel distribution and ongoing developments that might affect competition within and across distribution channels. Panelists unpacked policies involving: access to airline fare and availability data; surcharges on itineraries purchased outside airline websites; a “standard” distribution model; and other initiatives that can potentially affect the playing field for the distribution of air travel. The discussion tied in antitrust and regulatory tools for addressing competition and consumer issues surrounding distribution.

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