Virgin Atlantic Urges European Commission To Reject the Planned Virtual Merger Between BA and American Airlines

- Virgin Atlantic submits its concerns to European Commission

- BA/AA would control nearly 60% of the Heathrow-U.S. market

- BA/AA would lock-in best trans-Atlantic slots at 'closed Heathrow '

SOUTH NORWALK, Conn. , Nov. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Virgin Atlantic Airways, one of the world's leading long-haul airlines, today urged the European Commission to reject the planned virtual merger between two of the world's biggest airlines, British Airways and American Airlines.

(LOGO: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060927/NYW045LOGO)

In an extensive document submitted to the European Commission competition authorities, Virgin Atlantic said that BA and American Airlines - if allowed to combine - would use their market power to raise fares, adjust schedules to keep out competitors and cut off connecting feeder traffic to other carriers at Heathrow . In addition, they would reinforce their market power through a combined Frequent Flyer Program, which no competitor at Heathrow could replicate.

Steve Ridgway , Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic, said:

"We urge the European Commission to reject outright this third attempt by BA and AA to stifle competition between Heathrow and the U.S. Their virtual merger would lock-up one of the world's busiest air corridors against new and existing competition, increase BA's grip on the most constrained international airport in the world, and cause grave harm to consumers with higher prices."

Six routes between Heathrow and the U.S. currently benefit from BA and AA operating independently, competing fiercely for corporate customers, independent travelers and connecting passengers. Five of these six routes, including LHR-JFK; LHR-ORD; LHR-BOS; LHR-MIA and LHR-LAX are in the top seven for Heathrow-U.S. passenger numbers, with Heathrow being by far the busiest and most important European gateway for traffic to and from the U.S. By combining these routes, BA and AA would form a virtual merger which:

BA/AA would have a monopoly or be dominant on some of the busiest and most profitable routes between the U.S. and Heathrow . BA/AA would control 64% of the capacity between JFK-New York and Heathrow ; 64% between Chicago and Heathrow ; 80% between Boston and Heathrow ; 73% between Miami and Heathrow ; and 100% between Dallas-Fort Worth and Heathrow and Seattle and Heathrow .

Steve Ridgway added:

"Even if BA and AA were forced to give up slots at Heathrow , these so-called slot remedies on their own would not be suitable as they would be insufficient to reinstate any effective level of competition. They would not cancel out anticompetitive effects arising out of the increased network reach planned by BA and AA."

BA on its own is already bigger between Heathrow and the U.S. than the Star Alliance is from Frankfurt to the U.S. or SkyTeam is from Paris to the U.S. Heathrow , which is totally full, accounts for nearly a quarter of all passengers traveling between Europe and the U.S.

Virgin Atlantic's website with more information about the BA/AA monopoly can be found at www.virginatlantic.com/monstermonopoly

For more information, please visit www.virginatlantic.com

SOURCE Virgin Atlantic Airways



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