Japan's All Nippon Airways <9202.T> said it and fellow StarAlliance members United Airlines and Continental Airlines plan to apply for antitrust immunity to allow closer cooperation on transpacific routes.
The U.S. and Japan are expected to reach an open skies accord next week under which airlines could seek immunity from antitrust enforcement, allowing them to work closely on pricing, scheduling and marketing to boost sales and reduce costs.
ANA plans to make a joint application for antitrust immunity with United and Continental this month if the open skies pact is signed, with approval possible by the end of next year, a spokeswoman for Japan's second-largest carrier said.
ANA's larger rival Japan Airlines <9205.T> is expected to seek similar immunity to consolidate operations with either its Oneworld alliance partner American Airlines or with rival suitor Delta Air Lines in the SkyTeam camp.
American Airlines and Delta are both courting JAL with the promise of investment and the chance for higher revenues under an antitrust immunity pact.
Immunity from antitrust rules allows airlines to work together to adjust ticket fares, flight schedules and seating to make their operations more efficient.
Such a pact could help Continental, which left SkyTeam to join StarAlliance in October, United and ANA to boost combined annual earnings by tens of billions of yen by boosting sales and cutting costs, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.
The Nikkei also said ANA would run airport counter services and sales in Japan for its American partners, which would do the same for the Japanese carrier in the U.S., and that the three would divvy revenue from their U.S.-Japan flights from a combined account.
(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura and Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Michael Watson)