American Airlines and British Airways May Try Again to Seek Antitrust Immunity

Consolidation and capacity reductions were among the hot topics addressed by airline executives today at the Calyon Securities Annual Airline Conference.

But AMR executive VP of finance and CFO Thomas Horton had some interesting thoughts about American Airlines’ alliance with Oneworld partner British Airways (BA), and how that might be expanded in the future.

American is one of four carriers, including BA, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, with rights to serve Heathrow from the USA. An open skies accord brokered between the USA and the EU, which goes into effect in March, will overturn these restrictions and open up access to the UK airport.

Even though this will add competitive pressure for American at Heathrow, the carrier believes some good will come of it.

“The good news is that we think it will remove one of the regulatory entitlements to us being able to expand our relationship with BA to include antitrust immunity,” says Horton, noting that most other US majors have been able to achieve immunity with their transatlantic partners.

American has previously tried and failed to gain clearance to expand its relationship with BA.

“We haven’t reached any conclusions on that, but it would seem that the marketplace would make that more likely as we move forward,” says Horton.

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