Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson has renewed the airline’s campaign to block a co-operation agreement between Oneworld members British Airways and American Airlines.
Speaking during a briefing at London Heathrow, Branson said Virgin would repaint the ‘No Way BA/AA’ slogan on its fleet – a phrase adopted during previous attempts to derail efforts by BA and American to secure transatlantic anti-trust approval.
He unveiled the slogan on an Airbus A340-600 and vowed Virgin would “spend whatever it takes” to stop the tie-up.
“I think Virgin Atlantic can survive most things that are thrown at us,” he says. “But there’s no question it’ll be damaging. How damaging is impossible to predict.”
BA, American and three other airlines filed for anti-trust immunity last month.
Branson insists the combined force will dominate routes from Heathrow to US destinations such as New York JFK, Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles – and claims that BA is disguising the impact with understated passenger traffic figures in its anti-trust application.
But both BA and American are robustly defending their use of figures from marketing information data tapes (MIDT), saying that they are a “widely-recognised and valid” reference source for analysing market share, and are required by the US regulator.
American is dismissing Branson’s claims as “hypocritical scare tactics” and adds that he is “intentionally trying to mislead” both regulators and the public.
While American and BA each admit that MIDT data does not capture direct bookings on the airlines’ Internet sites, American says this is “irrelevant” because it also excludes direct booking for other carriers – and therefore provides a like-for-like comparison.
BA states that rival airline groups SkyTeam and Star Alliance have used MIDT data for their anti-trust applications, and adds that even Virgin has “extolled the virtues” of MIDT information in its own regulatory filings to the US Department of Transportation.