A little over a year ago, Continental announced it was leaving SkyTeam for Star Alliance and forming a tie-up with United, a move aimed at broadening Continental's reach in the global market. Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world, and will be more than twice the size of SkyTeam once Continental switches over.
So what took so long? Just that pesky Department of Justice (DOJ), which had concerns about Star Alliance carriers working together on prices and schedules. The DOJ feared this would lead to higher fares and less competition, thus violating antitrust laws, which are designed to ensure businesses remain competitive.
But on Friday, the Department of Transportation awarded immunity from these laws—with a few exceptions—and allowed Continental to proceed with its move. Those exceptions are for routes where Continental and its new alliance partners are already strong, including four routes between the U.S. and Canada and all travel between the U.S. and Beijing.
Continental will join Star Alliance in October, at which point Continental customers can earn and redeem frequent flyer miles in participating Star Alliance programs.