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Virgin could appeal BA and AA tie-up

VIRGIN Atlantic could appeal against a controversial decision by US transport regulators to allow a tie-up between British Airways (BA) and American Airlines (AA).

Virgin said it would await final approval by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) and the European Union of the plan to allow BA and AA to work together on ticketing and fares before deciding its next steps, although a spokeswoman said an appeal was an available option.

“We will have to decide at that point what we will do,” a spokeswoman for Virgin said.
The DoT has tentatively approved the request for anti-trust immunity from BA, AA and other Oneworld alliance members and for the UK flag-carrier’s transatlantic joint business deal with AA and Iberia between North America and Europe.

BA and AA say the deal may help them to offer lower fares on more routes, and quicker journeys and connections, but they would have to forfeit four take-off and landing slots between Heathrow and the US.

Sir Richard Branson’s airline has condemned the decision as a “kick in the teeth” for consumers that would reduce competition and hike fares.

Airlines have 60 days to comment on the proposals before the DoT gives its final verdict, while the European Union has still to approve the plans.

BA said they would help alliance members to compete more effectively against the Star and SkyTeam alliances, both of which already have transatlantic antitrust immunity.

“Closer cooperation, made possible by antitrust immunity, will benefit customers with more travel choices and convenient schedules, expanded opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles, and greater availability of lower fares,” BA said.

Virgin said the proposed concessions from AA and BA would fail to offset the negative impact it claims the decision will have on consumers.

Branson said: “Millions of transatlantic travellers will be adversely affected if the alliance receives final approval. I urge the European Commission to continue its more consumer-focused approach when it takes its decision in the coming weeks.”