WASHINGTON — US authorities on Wednesday gave the green light for Japan's two main airlines and their US partners to coordinate operations, a move it said would help lower air fares across the Pacific.
Japan and the United States in December last year agreed on an "open-skies" deal, allowing the two countries' airlines to adapt to demand and ending a half-century accord that preset the number of flights.
But Japan Airlines and Air Nippon Airways both sought immunity from US anti-trust laws to allow further cooperation with their partners, such as coordinating prices.
Japan Airlines, which is in the midst of painful restructuring, is part of the oneworld alliance with American Airlines. All Nippon Airways is a member of the Star Alliance with newly merged United Airlines and Continental Airlines.
The Department of Transportation said it has agreed to grant anti-trust exemptions to the two alliances, contingent on the final signature of the open-skies agreement.
Immunity would "provide passengers and cargo with a variety of benefits, including lower fares on more routes, increased services, better schedules and reduced travel and connection times," the department said in a statement.
"Each proposed alliance would enhance competition, particularly in trans-Pacific markets.
Delta Air Lines is the sole among the biggest three US carriers without a Japanese alliance partner.