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
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...