British Airways boss Willie Walsh has dismissed reports that the airline will have to surrender take-off and landing slots at Heathrow if its three-way, transatlantic tie-up with American Airlines and Iberia is to go ahead.
European Commission (EC) regulators have told BA and its Oneworld alliance partners, American Airlines and Iberia, that they could be forced to give up slots, according to the Financial Times.
However, Walsh said: “It is speculation. We are not planning to give up slots at Heathrow.”
The airlines are poised to respond to a statement of objections from Brussels to their agreement. They are also awaiting a US regulatory response, due by the end of October.
Walsh said: “You should expect a strong and robust response.”
Speaking in Las Vegas following BA’s inaugural flight to the city from Heathrow, Walsh added: “The case to proceed [with the agreement] is strong. If anything, it has become stronger.”
Virgin Atlantic has led opposition among rivals in Europe, and lobbied in the US against anti-trust immunity for a closer tie-up between BA and American Airlines.
The Financial Times quoted EC documents suggesting the agreement between the airlines was “likely to result in appreciable competitive harm” on seven routes between Europe and the US. The documents add: “Remedies may include…the transfer of airport slots.”
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