'3,000 jobs to go in Dan-Air deal'

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BRITISH Airways' takeover of Dan-Air could result in up to 3,000 job losses, rival airlines fighting the merger claimed last night.

Sir Michael Bishop, chairman of British Midland, said that in addition to the 1,900 jobs being lost at Dan-Air a further 1,100 could go among suppliers.

BA says the deal will save hundreds of jobs and secure Gatwick's role as a hub international airport.

But there were reports last night of up to 600 job losses at firms supplying engineering and catering services to Dan-Air, while redundancy notices were said to have been issued to 50 Dan-Air staff in Inverness.

British Midland yesterday submitted a 90-page dossier to the Office of Fair Trading calling for the Dan-Air takeover to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic is expected to submit evidence today. He and Sir Michael are also due to give evidence in person.

Despite the decision of British Midland and Virgin to band together with Air UK and Britannia to oppose the deal, the OFT is widely expected not to recommend a referral to the MMC when it submits advice to ministers.

The four airlines last night met MPs on the Commons backbench aviation committee to spell out their opposition. 'If the Dan-Air acquisition is allowed to go ahead as it stands . . . it will simply serve to increase BA's domination at the UK's two major international airports,' they said.

The Government yesterday rejected calls from an all-party committee of MPs for EC merger regulations to be amended to ensure that most airline takeovers were vetted by Brussels.

In its reply to a report from the Commons select committee on transport, the Government said it would be 'inappropriate' for the EC to give special treatment to the aviation industry.

The MPs said that the turnover thresholds that trigger automatic examination by the EC's mergers task force made a 'nonsense' of merger control as far as airlines were concerned because they were too high to catch takeovers of small airlines by national flag-carriers. BA's takeover of Dan-Air is unlikely to be investigated by the EC for this reason.

However, the Government supported the committee's call for a 'use it or lose it' approach to the allocation of take-off and landing slots at congested airports. Rival airlines fear that if the Dan-Air takeover deal goes ahead it will strengthen BA's hold over slots at Heathrow and Gatwick.

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