BA seeks tie up with American and Iberia

British Airways is seeking anti-trust immunity for a three-way alliance with American Airlines and Spanish carrier Iberia.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh is due to join American Airlines’ head Gerard Arpey at a meeting with US transportation secretary Mary Peters later this month, with Iberia also expected to attend. The Financial Times revealed the planned tie-up yesterday.

American Airlines and BA have sought and failed to win anti-trust immunity twice before, in 1997 and 2001 – being refused on the grounds that it would give the pair a dominant position on transatlantic routes.

The airlines will argue circumstance have changed since the last attempt. The ‘open skies’ regime between the US and Europe introduced at the end of March has deregulated routes and US authorities recently granted anti-trust immunity to a tie up between Air France-KLM and merged carriers Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines.

BA, American and Iberia are already partners in the Oneworld alliance, but anti-trust immunity would allow them to co-ordinate services and share revenues.

Walsh said last month that he would need to be confident of success to mount a third attempt at winning anti-trust immunity as he could not imagine trying for a fourth time. 

Iberia was the subject of a takeover offer from a consortium including BA last year. However, Iberia’s biggest shareholder Caja Madrid chose to keep the carrier in Spanish hands.

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