Alan George/LONDON

The proposed British Airways/American Airlines alliance may be allowed to include London Gatwick Airport slots among the concessions it needs to make to gain approval from the European Commission for the tie-up. Previously, it was thought that all of the slots to be sacrificed would be at London Heathrow.

A well-placed official in Brussels also says that European competition chief Karel van Miert and the UK Department of Industry have agreed to compromise on the actual number of slots which the alliance will have to give up.

Van Miert had originally suggested that the alliance should surrender 350 slots, while the UK Government had put forward a figure of 168.

The alliance has been stalled since its inception in 1996, primarily because of the hard line the European Commission has taken on competition issues. Both sides have taken a more conciliatory position recently and a new formula is aimed at making it possible for "-competitors to enter any route between the two destinations".

The frequency of American/BA flights across the North Atlantic is of concern. Brussels considers that flights on some routes are so frequent that new competitor are deterred. "We will ask for a reduction or a freezing of frequencies on some routes," it says.

Source: Flight International