MIDDLE EAST: Virgin continues to oppose Oneworld moves

Virgin Atlantic Airways’ chief executive called on European regulators to take a tougher stance than the US in reviewing the proposed new pact between British Airways, American Airlines and their Oneworld alliance partners. Virgin CEO Steve Ridgway said the UK carrier would press its continued opposition to the pact with the US Department of Justice, […]


Virgin Atlantic Airways’ chief executive called on European regulators to take a tougher stance than the US in reviewing the proposed new pact between British Airways, American Airlines and their Oneworld alliance partners.

Virgin CEO Steve Ridgway said the UK carrier would press its continued opposition to the pact with the US Department of Justice, after the US Department of Transportation gave tentative approval for the carriers to coordinate their transatlantic services. By granting antitrust immunity, the Oneworld would enjoy commercial freedoms already given to members of the rival Star and SkyTeam alliances.

The European Commission is reviewing the Oneworld application, having already expressed concern about its competitive impact on seven transatlantic routes. The commission is also investigating the existing Star Alliance and SkyTeam groupings as part of a broader scrutiny of the alliance system.

BA and American have sought immunity since 1996, but two previous efforts foundered after regulators demanded they surrender slots at London’s congested Heathrow airport. In its latest ruling, the US regulator said Oneworld must give up four daily slot pairs at Heathrow to foster competition, compared to the 16 slot pairs proposed when they gave tentative approval to a similar proposal in 2002.