British Airways and LOT Polish Airlines have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to begin negotiating a strategic alliance.

BA's prime aim is to develop its Central European network, but LOT says that there is the option of extending the deal in future to include other alliance partners. BA's prospective transatlantic partner, American Airlines, already codeshares with LOT on selected US routes, while the UK carrier is in talks with Iberia and Finnair.

LOT and BA will first look at codesharing on Manchester/ Warsaw and London-Gatwick/ Krakow routes, and then at extending to other routes out of London and Warsaw. Plans also exist for a codeshare deal between LOT and BA's German sister company Deutsche BA, also linking up their frequent flyer programmes. A deal is expected by April.

The previously controversial main London Heathrow/Warsaw route will not be included in the initial talks.

The airlines say that the sale of equity is being considered as a possibility, although BA chief executive Bob Ayling has declined to link this with the much-delayed privatisation of the Polish airline.

Source: Flight International