Virgin formally submits BA/AA objections to EC

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Virgin Atlantic has formally submitted its objections concerning the proposed British Airways/American Airlines transatlantic tie-up to the European Commission.

The UK carrier has long been hostile to the possible granting of anti-trust immunity to the Oneworld carriers which, it maintains, will affect transatlantic competition and depress connecting feeder traffic to other carriers at London Heathrow.

"We urge the European Commission to reject outright this third attempt by BA and AA to stifle competition between Heathrow and the USA," says Virgin CEO Steve Ridgway.

"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 airport in the world and cause grave harm to consumers with higher prices."

BA countered earlier this year, noting that the immunity application came in a "changed regulatory world" and that London Heathrow was open to any US or European airline that wanted to operate transatlantic routes.

Sources close to Virgin Atlantic point out that any decision concerning BA/AA from the US Department of Transportation could take up to a year to reach, given the transition to the Obama administration.