Brussels to press for more concessions from BA

British Airways' hopes of sealing its long-awaited alliance with American Airlines were dealt a further blow yesterday when it emerged that the European Commission was likely to call for further concessions from the two companies this week.

Karel Van Miert, the Competiton Commissioner, flew to London yesterday morning for a private meeting with Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade to discuss the alliance. A spokesman for Mr Van Miert said details of the EC's investigation could be released as early as tomorrow.

The spokesman declined to comment on growing speculation that the EC will ask the two carriers to hive off a larger number of lucrative runway slots at Heathrow Airport than the figure of 168 provisionally proposed by the Office of Fair Trading. The EC probe has run in parallel with the OFT, which has yet to hand its final conclusions to the DTI. In January Mr Van Miert made clear his deep concerns about the alliance on competition in the transatlantic air market.

The alliance, which would involve the two carriers pooling revenues and coordinating flight times, has aroused huge criticism from rival US carriers who have restricted access to London airports. It would give BA and American some 60 per cent of flights between the UK and US, entrenching the UK airline's already dominant position at Heathrow.

Mr Van Miert is understood to have made direct contact with BA yesterday afternoon, requesting a meeting with its chief executive, Bob Ayling, to discuss the Commission's concerns about the alliance. No date has yet been set for the talks.

These cover both the number of slots that BA and American should surrender and whether they should be allowed to sell the slots. Mr Van Miert has been locked in dispute for months with Neil Kinnock, the EC Transport Commissioner over the principle of slot trading.

A spokeswoman for the transport commissioner said Mr Kinnock intended to issue proposals legitimising trading next month, though Mr Van Miert is apparently still opposed to the idea. BA has insisted it must be allowed to receive compensation for any slots divested.

A BA spokesman said it welcomed the chance to put its views to Mr Van Miert. "We are pleased that we will have the opportunity we have long sort to face up to the Commission's concerns because we believe we have the arguments to persuade them of the benefits the alliance will bring."

Suggestions that the Commission might insist on tougher concessions from BA and American as the price for allowing the deal to proceed left BA shares 18p lower at 718p. In the last two days they have fallen by more than 5 per cent.

Meanwhile, BA yesterday continued to unravel its relationship with USAirways, its former US partner airline. US Airways bought back about a quarter of BA's 24.6 per cent stake in the carrier for $126.2m (pounds 79m). The deal leaves BA with about 14.5 per cent of US Airways. BA paid $400m (pounds 250m) for its original stake in 1993.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea