The European Commission (EC) has dropped an anti-trust case against TAP Air Portugal and Brussels Airlines.

The investigation, which began in October 2016, focused on a codeshare agreement between the two carriers on their Brussels to Lisbon route.

Two years ago, the EC told the two airlines that its “preliminary view” was that the carriers’ codeshare cooperation on the sector restricted competition between them, in breach of EU antitrust rules.

A statement of objections from the EC related to the first three years of the codeshare agreement, which originated in 2009. Under this codeshare agreement, the two airlines granted each other the right to sell an unlimited number of seats of almost all categories (business and economy) on each other’s flights on the route. Prior to the agreement, Brussels Airlines and TAP Portugal had operated competing services on the route and were the only two airlines flying the sector.

Two years later, the EC said Oct. 30 it had decided to close the investigation “based on a thorough analysis of all relevant evidence, including information received from the two airlines in their replies to the statement of objections and during an oral hearing, which took place in May 2017.

“The Commission concluded that the evidence collected was not sufficient to confirm its initial concerns and has therefore decided to close its investigation. Throughout the investigation, the Commission emphasized that its concerns related to certain specific features of this particular codeshare, rather than to codeshares in general.

“However, today’s closure decision does not mean that close forms of cooperation between competing airlines will not raise competition concerns. Finally, it should be noted that since 2014 new airlines have begun to compete with the codesharing airlines on the Brussels-Lisbon route, to the benefit of consumers. The Commission will continue to monitor the European air travel market,” the EC said.

Alan Dron