Brussels may ease conditions to approve BA alliance

Karel Van Miert, the European Competition Commissioner, gave the first hint yesterday that Brussels is prepared to compromise over the concessions it is demanding in return for approving the British Airways- American Airlines alliance.

The Commission has told the two airlines that it will block the deal unless they surrender 350 take-off and landing slots at Heathrow .

But Mr Van Miert said yesterday he would be prepared to reduce the figure if BA and American could convince him that the proposal was unworkable. "It's not an absolute figure. If there is good reason to modify it, we'll be willing to talk about it," he said.

The Commissioner also indicated that talks with the airlines were reaching a critical phase and a solution could emerge within a few weeks.

Last week, BA's chief executive, Bob Ayling, conceded that there was now no hope of getting the alliance up and running in time for next summer. .

Meanwhile BA yesterday announced the pounds 65m sale of its in-flight catering business at Heathrow to Swiss Air. The disposal of the division, which employs 2,000, is part of BA's global efficiency plan.

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