Battle of the Airlines: Apology 'will not damage hopes of stake in USAir'

BRITISH AIRWAYS' apology to Virgin Atlantic is unlikely to damage its anticipated bid for a stake in USAir, despite Richard Branson's suggestions to the contrary, US aviation officials say.

BA is expected to renew its offer to buy a substantial stake in America's sixth-largest airline after withdrawing its original dollars 750m ( pounds 497m) bid shortly before Christmas in the face of American opposition.

But following BA's admission of anti-competitive tactics on Monday, Mr Branson said the deal was now in jeopardy, particularly if he decided to press his complaint in the United States, where many of the alleged 'dirty tricks' are said to have occurred.

Virgin officials point out that BA delayed a scheduled court appearance in the case last October, apparently to avoid giving its US competitors ammunition in their campaign to get regulators to veto the USAir deal. They also point out that Washington initiated an anti-trust investigation of British Airways' tactics a decade ago, then at the request of Sir Freddie Laker, Mr Branson's predecessor in discount transatlantic air travel.

Mr Branson, who has called a two-week 'cooling off period' to gauge BA's reaction, has three options if he decides to pursue the issue in the US: requesting a criminal anti-trust investigation by the US Justice Department; seeking a private, civil anti-trust ruling against BA, which would award treble damages; or registering a complaint with the US Department of Transportation (DoT).

But aviation lawyers and officials, including many who opposed BA's first bid for a USAir stake, said they doubted whether the airline's admission would have any bearing on its reception by US regulators, even if Virgin was able to win a criminal anti-trust ruling. Even the Washington lobbying firm that led the attack on BA's bid last autumn said the new offer was again likely to be judged on foreign ownership and control criteria, rather than UK competition issues or 'any political or personal mud-slinging between British Airways and Richard Branson'.

'These are two very separate matters,' said Norman Sandler, a spokesman for the group, which was financed by American, United and Delta Airlines, BA's main competitors in the transatlantic market.

Daniel Kasper, a civil aviation expert based in Boston, said: 'US authorities deal routinely with anti-trust issues among US carriers, and this sort of thing just won't come up in the DoT hearing. The character and fitness of British Airways or its management is just not an issue here.' Mr Kasper doubts whether US Justice Department prosecutors would even be willing to consider a criminal investigation of what is essentially a dispute between two UK carriers that has already been settled in Britain.

The investigation of Sir Freddie's allegations, which was halted after a personal request from Margaret Thatcher to President Reagan, involved the practices of US airlines as well as BA, he said.

BA's American competitors are unlikely to try to brand the airline as criminal in the US, given their own record on anti-competitive practices at home, according to Robert Joedicke, an analyst with the Shearson Lehman brokerage in New York. 'They all do it, and they're not about to start throwing stones,' he said.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
These photographs released by the University of Maryland Medical Center show images of full face transplant recipient 37-year-old Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville, Virginia
mediaGQ front page features man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 General

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - Eciting new Role

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on