United Airlines, Continental Airlines and All Nippon Airways have applied for antitrust immunity so they can work together on flights across the Pacific.
If granted, it would remove competition rules on routes between the United States and Japan for the Star Alliance.
The alliance already sells tickets on each other's planes, but they want the opportunity to jointly manage schedules, prices and sales.
The request has been filed with the US Transportation Department.
The airlines say immunity would help them compete with other big airlines that have a presence in Tokyo.
The BBC reports the US and Japan agreed to a new "open skies" deal at the beginning of December for passenger planes and cargo services. However, the agreement is still to be formalised.