Branson to put new demands to BA chief

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The Independent Online
A MEETING this afternoon between Sir Colin Marshall, British Airways chief executive, and Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, will decide whether the war between the two airlines will continue, writes David Bowen.

Industry sources expect Mr Branson to press Sir Colin hard for further concessions, possibly including cash, in compensation for the dirty tricks campaign BA waged against Virgin.

British Airways is already paying Virgin pounds 610,000 in libel damages after admitting Mr Branson was correct in suggesting it had used underhand methods to tempt passengers away.

Both sides have been adopting a hard line. Mr Branson is said to be set to demand millions of pounds and to threaten legal action if Sir Colin does not agree.

He could sue in Britain for BA's computer-hacking activities under data protection legislation, and in the EC and US by charging that its activities have been anti-competitive.

But British Airways sources say they cannot see why Virgin should be given any more money and reject out of hand any suggestion that any landing slots should be transferred as part of a deal.

There are, however, signs that both airlines would like to come to a modus vivendi. Sir Colin says he wants to establish a better relationship and says the fleets may be able to co-operate on maintenance. Mr Branson would also like to share maintenance facilities as well as working together in areas such as safety and training.

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