Rules that restrict foreign ownership of US and European carriers needs to be "consigned to the past" in order for those airline to compete effectively with their rivals, warns British Airways chief executive Keith Williams.
Speaking at the European Aviation Club in Brussels today, Williams said current restrictions that limit foreign ownership to 25% of a US airline and 49% of a European carrier need to be abolished as they are "outdated" and "not justified in a globalised economy of the 21st century".
Williams says the transatlantic aviation market "urgently needs" to be liberalised "not just to the benefit of customers, but to drive efficiencies within our businesses so we are in a position to compete with emerging forces: low-costs and long-haul carriers in the Middle East and Asia".
He says the US remains "firmly closed" to significant investment by foreign investors but adds that "protectionism doesn't work".
Despite this, Williams says BA owner IAG does not have plans to invest in US carriers.
The proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways is, he says, "hugely positive" for Oneworld, and that the two carriers have complementary networks that could be a "huge advantage" for the airline alliance.
Williams says competition with the Middle East is nothing new and has existed for BA since the early 1990s, but it is "product" and "partnerships" that will help the UK airline compete effectively.
The BA boss also urges the European Commission not to "backtrack on its commitment" to preventing illegal state aid for European airlines, pointing to the recent capital increase for Alitalia. "We remain completely opposed to illegal state aid in aviation," says Williams.