Virgin slams BA alliance as ‘anti-competitive’

Virgin Atlantic will fight British Airways’ application for anti-trust immunity in the US as BA seeks a closer tie-up with American Airlines and Iberia, calling the proposed alliance ‘anti-competitive’.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh and American Airlines’ head Gerard Arpey are to meet US transportation secretary Mary Peters to discuss the application this month, with Iberia in attendence.

But a Virgin Atlantic spokesman warned: “We would oppose this attempt to create an anti-competitive alliance. It would form a dominant mega-power on transatlantic air routes, forcing up ticket prices and restricting choice. BA, American and Iberia would dominate slots at Heathrow and use that power to block new entrants on key routes across the Atlantic.”

He added: “The current crisis in aviation must lead to survival of the fittest, not protection of the fattest. Regulators must block this attempt.”

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

Virgin Atlantic is likely to be a determined opponent, with no love lost between it and BA. It was Virgin Atlantic that exposed the collusion on fuel surcharges between the pair that led to record fines on BA last year. In 1993 BA had to apologise in court after admitting to running a “dirty tricks” campaign against Sir Richard Branson’s airline.

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