British Airways does not believe the recent European Union-US open skies agreement will make it easier to overcome the antitrust hurdles faced by the carrier in its bid to increase co-operation with Oneworld partner American Airlines, writes Kerry Ezard.

Speaking at an event in Amman to mark the accession of Royal Jordanian Airlines to Oneworld, BA chief executive Willie Walsh said he believed that regulatory authorities in the USA would "still impose penalties on us", similar to those that have prevented previous attempts to secure antitrust immunity.

However, Walsh is "cautiously optimistic" that the USA will relax its foreign ownership restrictions in the second stage of talks. He said that the opt-out clause secured by the EU if this does not happen by 2010 is "a good thing". "Traffic rights should absolutely be withdrawn if there is no open aviation area by 2010," said Walsh.

He sees "no reason" for the five-month open skies implementation delay sought by the UK government, and said it was not requested by BA.

Source: Flight International