British Airways’ triple alliance with American Airlines and merger partner Iberia which was launched on Wednesday promises agents and clients the chance to book cheaper fares.
Flights for all three carriers will be available through the website of each, allowing one-way fares on shared routes to be mixed and matched – with agents having the same opportunity through GDSs.
So where BA now offers three daily Heathrow-Los Angeles services, with nine possible flight combinations, it will offer four services and 16 combinations next year with the addition of the existing American Airlines flight.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh said: “Customers can mix their flights between carriers, giving them greater ability to find a cheaper ticket. We will have different price points, but the seat price will be the same through each airline.”
The three will coordinate schedules from next March, offering an improved range of transatlantic departure times. They will also launch new routes.
BA will fly between Heathrow and San Diego from June – a route it has started twice before and abandoned because it proved unprofitable.
Walsh promised improved departure times at Heathrow, New York JFK, Chicago and Miami and said: “We are not going to compete between ourselves, but offer greater competition between ourselves and other airlines.”
The trio won anti-trust immunity in the US and Europe earlier this year, allowing them to co-ordinate fares and share revenue.
The three are also developing passenger-transfer centres at major airports, where staff will meet disembarking passengers who risk missing a connection and rush them to the next flight or issue a boarding pass for a later departure.
Walsh described the launch of the alliance as marking a new era. BA has been a partner of American Airlines since 1996 and of Iberia since 1999, but tighter co-operation has been blocked until now.
The BA boss dismissed a suggestion the alliance would lead to cost cutting. He said: “There are no job implications. We are adding flights. We will be recruiting at BA. This is a story about growth and making services more attractive for customers.”
American Airlines announced it would be recalling 800 pilots and cabin crew laid off due to the downturn.
Walsh also repeated a previous assertion that BA would look to expand at Madrid Barajas airport following a government block on expansion at Heathrow. He said: “Madrid is in a perfect position to grow and we will have access through our partner.”
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