Virgin chief demands talks over BA's alliance with AA and Iberia

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Branson is demanding urgent talks with US and EU regulators to protest against BA's proposed tie-up with American Airlines and Iberia.

Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard's airline, argued that the move was anti-competitive when it was announced last Thursday. Virgin expects to meet regulators in the next few weeks. The talks would occur before BA's chief executive, Willie Walsh, has finished filing information for "anti-trust immunity" with the US Department of Transport and the European Commission. Once this information is handed over, the tie-up in effect becomes live, giving parties a month to file submissions for or against the move.

The alliance would allow the three airlines to cooperate on issues such as ticketing, as well as share profit. Sir Richard described this as a "monster monopoly".

Mr Walsh said that this was an outdated argument, related to two attempts in 1996 and 2001 to get tie-up approval. A source said that even with approval, legal challenges and divestments of slots could take two years.