European carriers want share of Heathrow slots

British Midland Airways yesterday said European carriers should be given additional runway slots at Heathrow Airport if the European Commission took a tough line over the planned alliance between British Airways and American Airlines.

Sir Michael Bishop, British Midland's chairman, insisted he was neutral on whether the link-up should be approved by regulators. However he argued that if the European Commission asked the partners to give up more lucrative slots at Heathrow than the figure of 168 proposed by the UK Office of Fair Trading, then it would be illogical to award them all to transatlantic carriers.

Most US rivals have pleaded that the alliance should only get the go- ahead if the partners give up at least 400 Heathrow slots. All the rival American carriers are desperately seeking greater access to the airport.

Sir Michael said if all the extra slots went to transatlantic airlines, it would "turn Heathrow into a huge leisure holiday airport for the US. At the same time there would be no new capacity for business travellers on intra-European routes."