Guy Norris/LOS ANGELES
American Airlines has guaranteed not to fully implement its proposed alliance with British Airways until 14 slots have been made available to enable other airlines to begin new daily services between the US and London Heathrow.
The US airline believes the compromise could help break the deadlock over approval of the alliance with the UK flag carrier. Although it does not address the likely requirement by the European Commission ultimately to give up around 280 slots as part of the alliance approval terms, American says: "We hope it will help move things along." American international planning managing director Dave Schwarte says the compromise will get "things out of the box" and moving towards a solution. "We want to have the decision wrapped up before mid-October so we can file for slot times for next summer," he adds.
The move came as American and BA submitted what should be their last official replies to submissions to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) over the alliance. In a joint statement, the carriers "-urge the DoT to promptly approve the proposed alliance, subject to conclusion of an Open Skies aviation agreement between the USA and the UK".
The compromise comes as American reveals increasing concern over its faltering position in Europe. "Quite frankly, that's where we are having some serious trouble," says Schwarte, who adds that "-in the last year and a half we have abandoned New York-Brussels, New York-Zurich and Miami-Frankfurt".
American claims the BA alliance would significantly boost its European fortunes as it would allow the US carrier to tap into traffic volumes estimated at around 150,000 passengers carried by BA from these destinations to the USA via Heathrow.
Although both airlines expect to have the long-awaited European response to the alliance proposal around 8 July, Schwarte hints that American would be willing to wait for a year to implement the alliance should its compromise over slots be accepted. Stressing the importance of the venture with BA, American finance and planning senior vice-president Gerard Arpey adds: "This partnership is the lynchpin behind our worldwide partnering strategy. Irrespective of how this thing works out, we and BA will be partners for a long, long time." Arpey says that the proposed solution "-deals with the primary concerns we're hearing from other airlines".
Defending the relative share of the US-UK market which the alliance would give the two airlines, American says Delta and Swissair have "88% of the capacity between the US and Switzerland", while Delta and Sabena enjoy a similar share of the US-Benelux market. Lufthansa and United, by comparison, share a 57% part of the USA-Germany market, which it claims will equal that of the proposed American/BA alliance.
Source: Flight International