American concedes BA alliance may not get Brussels green light

American Airlines has conceded that its alliance with British Airways may not get approval from the European Commission. Michael Harrison reports on the increasing doubts surrounding the transatlantic link-up.

Bob Crandall, chairman of American Airlines, has given the clearest indication yet that it may be forced to walk away from its long-delayed alliance with BA because of the concessions demanded by the EC's Competition Commissioner Jarel Van Miert.

In a speech to senior airline executives on Thursday night, Mr Crandall attacked the "busy bureaucrats of Brussels" and said of the threat to block the alliance: "It would be a shame and there is no justification for it."

He also indicated that in the 15 months American and BA had been waiting for regulatory approval they had drawn up detailed continegency plans in the event of the alliance not being allowed to proceed as planned.

Mr Crandall said the two airlines had learnt a lot about one another since the alliance was first announced in June last year and that they would continue to cooperate in future if the link-up did not go-ahead.

His comments, at a dinner in the Dorchester Hotel in London, arte the closest a senior executive from either airline has come to admitting defeat. Mr Crandall angrily compared the way other alliances between Luthansa, KLM and Sabena and US carriers had been approved with the treatment given to BA and American by the EC competition authorities. "Their activism stands in sharp contrast to the quiescence with which they accepted alliances in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Brussels," said Mr Crandall.

The dinner, held to coincide with a meeting of the American board in London, had been intended to celebrate the successful launch of the BA alliance.

But Mr Crandall said BA and American could not have anticipated the length of the examintaion launched by Brussels which has stopped the alliance in its tracks.

Earlier this week Don Carty, the American Airlines president, warned that it would pull out of the merger if Brussels stood by its demand that the two airlines give up 353 take-off and landing slots a week at Heathrow.

Mr Carty said that the price being demanded was not one it was prepared to pay. The Office of Fair Trading has said that BA and American should relinquish 168 slots - equivalent to 12 round trips a day. Mr Carty said this was as far as American would go and then only if it was allowed to sell or lease the slots.

Behind American's bellicose stance lies a degree of frustration. It is confident that US regulators will approve the alliance because that will pave the way for a wider open skies agreement allowing more US airlines access to Heathrow. But it is disappointed that BA has been unable to gain Brussels approval.

Senior BA executives were more upbeat however, saying that Britain's two EC Commissioners, Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock, the Transport Commissioner, supported the alliance. It was suggested that Mr Van Miert, a former socialist prime minister of Belgium, was making a political issue out of the BA-American alliance because he has his eyes set on the EU presidency when Jacques Santer retires.

Meanwhile, BA is facing the threat of being fined by Brussels for anti- competitive behaviour following complaints lodged by Virgin Atlantic that its sales techniques have breached the Treaty of Rome.

An EC spokeswoman in London denied, however, that it had already concluded that BA was in violation of article 86 of the treaty and said hearings would take place towards the end of October at which BA and Virgin could state their respective cases. "There is no truth in the suggestion that the Commission is about to impose fines. We still have to scrutinise replies and comments.''

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Transition Manager - Stirling - Banking - £400

£400 - £420 per day: Orgtel: IT Transition Manager - Banking - Scotland - £400...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game