12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia have signed a new business agreement, and in a major effort to drum up passenger support for their venture, the three airlines have created a special website and are urging customers to show their support.
The three carriers say they will provide passengers with easier, seamless and convenient travel to more global destinations. They say they will offer better connections, improved schedules and more opportunities to earn frequent flyer points. In addition these carriers say the improved efficiencies will help them offset the rising cost of oil and will enable them to continue offering value-for-money fares.
The tie-up will see flights linking the EU, Norway and Switzerland with North America and Mexico coordinated. There will also be a lot more code-sharing (currently the regulators forbid BA from code-sharing with American on UK-US direct routes). But the three carriers will still operate separately and retain their individual identities.
It”s not the first time BA and American have sought a marketing tie-up. Both tried in 1997 and again in 2001 but their applications were rejected by the regulatory bodies because of their dominant market position on the North Atlantic.
BA now argues that the world”s marketplace has changed in the intervening years so that is why these carriers are more confident of gaining approval.
Says Willie Walsh, BA chief executive, ”We are applying for EU and US anti-trust immunity in a changed regulatory world where London Heathrow is open to any US or EU airline that wants to fly to the United States and where rival alliances have immunity.”
What has particularly miffed BA and American in recent times is the fact that members of rival airline alliances Star and Skyteam have been given approval to market and code-share their US flights together even though they also hold a dominant share of their respective routes.
Take the example of Lufthansa and United who cooperate out of German airports, Swiss and United out of Switzerland, Air France and Delta out of France or KLM/Northwest out of Holland.
Operating together has given these carriers more clout. Their keen prices for UK-US flights via the likes of Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris CDG must have stolen traffic from the carriers flying directly from the UK.
Predictably BA”s main UK competitor, Virgin Atlantic, has harsh criticism for the proposal. It warns that the development will push up ticket prices and substantially reduce competition on the busiest air corridor in the world.
Says Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, ”Make no mistake ” if this monster monopoly is approved it will be third time unlucky for consumers. It will still be bad for passengers, bad for competition and bad for the UK and US aviation industry.”
”BA argues that the aviation landscape has changed since their last failed application ” I disagree, nothing has changed. Open Skies [between the UK and US] has not delivered the greater competition that was promised because Heathrow is full.”
As for a decision from the regulators ” don”t hold your breath. Judging by past experience it could be months or even years before the respective bodies in the EU and UK give their verdict.
For more information go to www.moretravelchoices.com