Airlines make a deal for trans-Atlantic alliance

British Airways, American Airlines
and Iberia have offered to give up slots at airports in London and New York,
say regulators at the European Commission.

The three Oneworld alliance members
will be hoping this draws to a close the commission’s inquiry into their
co-operation on transatlantic routes.

The commission has asked interested
parties for comments by 10 April.

Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson
has described the proposals as “woefully inadequate”.

The six pairs of takeoff and
landing slots on offer are at London Heathrow or London Gatwick airports on
routes to Boston, New York, Dallas and Miami.

British Airways, American Airlines
and Iberia have also said new entrants would be able to join the frequent-flyer
programmes that they operate on the relevant routes.

The European Commission argues
these proposals will enable other airlines to start operating transatlantic
routes by lowering the barriers to entry, and that the slots surrendered will
compensate for the fact that the three airlines are no longer in competition.

“There will still be a choice
of flights so consumers are not harmed by this deal,” said European
Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres. She explained that the slots on offer
were equivalent to 42 flights a week between London and US cities.

But Virgin Atlantic argued that
British Airways and American Airlines would still control 100 per cent of the
international routes in and out of Dallas, 80 per cent of those in Boston, 70
per cent of those in Miami and 68 per cent of those in Chicago.

European Commission began
investigating the level of co-operation between the three airlines in April
2009.

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