Merger "disastrous" for passengers
A tie-up between British Airways and American airlines would create a "monster monopoly", Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson warned yesterday (May 14).
Sir Richard said passengers would suffer from a tie-up which could allow the two airlines to set prices on key transatlantic routes.
"If the proposed merger between BA and American Airlines is allowed to go ahead then the result for passengers, employees, communities and for fair and healthy competition, would be disastrous," he said.
"It doesn't make sense to encourage even less competition by allowing dominant carriers to increase their stranglehold by setting prices together and agreeing schedules."
Sir Richard is also reported to have cast doubts over Virgin Atlantic's future.
"I cannot guarantee VA's survival. It will be like competing with our hands tied behind our back," he told an audience in Washington.
VA claimed the merger would give BA, AA and the oneworld alliance more than half of all airport slots at London Heathrow.
"BA-AA would also control most of the capacity on key routes such as Heathrow-Boston (80%); Heathrow-Miami (73%); Heathrow-Chicago O'Hare (64%) and Heathrow-New York JFK (64%)," VA said in a statement.
Sir Richard urged regulators to examine each application for anti-trust immunity as a new case and not base decisions on past rulings.
BA rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have in the past been given immunity for ventures with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, respectively.
VA has asked the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to reject BA-AA's anti-trust application. A decision is expected within six months.
A spokesperson for AA told Reuters VA was "trotting out old, outdated arguments."
AA said there was no risk of a monopoly as more than 40 airlines serve transatlantic routes.
This is BA and AA's second attempt at gaining immunity for a proposed partnership. The first attempt failed in 2002 after concerns were raised over access to Heathrow, where BA is dominant and AA has a key presence.
Last month VA called on the DoT to request more evidence from BA and AA in its anti-trust case after claims some documents are missing.
BA labelled the move by VA a "delaying tactic".
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