BA wants Virgin documents back

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The Independent Online
TALKS to settle the dispute between British Airways and Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic have hit a fresh hurdle in the shape of a demand by BA that all evidence of its 'dirty tricks' campaign be erased from the record.

BA is understood to have asked Virgin to return all the documents relating to the campaign that it obtained under legal 'discovery rules' so that they can be shredded. The request is one of the key points of principle on which the long-running talks, now in their fifth week, are stalled. Sources said it was still impossible to say whether the talks would end in agreement.

Both sides have compromised considerably on their original positions. Virgin has agreed that BA will be entitled to continue poaching its passengers through legitimate means such as 'switch selling' while BA had agreed not to misuse confidential passenger information on Virgin to which it has access on shared computer systems.

Meanwhile, the first full figures showing the impact of the damaging dispute on the two airlines' passenger numbers were released.

BA's scheduled passenger load factor in February was 63 per cent - down by 1.8 per cent on the same month last year - while load factors on its intercontinental routes, where it competes with Virgin, were down by 1.9 per cent.

However, BA's traffic growth as measured by revenue passenger kilometres - the industry standard - increased by 5.1 per cent.

Virgin said it had achieved its best February load factor - 79.2 per cent compared with 69.4 per cent in February last year.

Neither airline was prepared to give figures for the all-important premium passenger traffic levels.