The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomes the European Commission's decision to renew the Block Exemption that allows airlines operating within the European Union to consult on interline tariffs.

The Commission's decision is an important step forward in preserving a system that has been providing tangible consumer benefits and a competitive level playing field for the airlines" said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

IATA Conferences develop standards supporting the multilateral interline system that enables passengers to fly on two or more airlines with a single ticket issued in one currency, and gives them the flexibility to change route and carriers at short notice. A key element of this system is the cooperative establishment of flexible tariffs that can be used on different carriers, each of who share a part of the total fare.

The Commission's decision was reached after broad consultation with all interested parties, including consumer organisations and EU Member States. The consultation process confirmed IATA's firm view that the IATA conference system generates real benefits for the travelling public that cannot be replicated by alternative approaches. Although alliances and other limited inter-carrier arrangements might reproduce some of the benefits of the IATA system, the consultation process showed that, without the IATA system, consumers would have less choice, interline fares would be higher, and smaller carriers would find it harder to compete.

EU based IATA Members will start providing the European Commission's Competition Directorate with statistics on the use of IATA fares for interlining in the EU. IATA is confident that this data will provide empirical evidence of the value of multilateral interline fares over lower priced but less flexible alternatives on both main and less-travelled routes in the EU.