THE US DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoT) is demanding that additional slots be freed up at London Heathrow as the price for granting anti-trust immunity to the proposed alliance between BA and American Airlines.

Senior DoT policy official Patrick Murphy says that new US carriers would have to be installed at the congested hub and be ready to compete with the new alliance before the USA gives its blessing to the tie-up. "Merely stating that US carriers are free to enter that congested airport is not enough," he says.

TWA pre-empted news of the BA/American link with a DoT filing for access to the airport. Continental Airlines has joined the fray with an application for 20 slots at Heathrow to begin services to its hubs at New York, Houston and Cleveland. Continental has also called for American to be stripped of its slots and services to Heathrow.

BA and American both concede that a UK/US open- skies deal will be a pre-requisite of gaining anti-trust immunity, but have ruled out redistribution of their slots.

Latest figures from the International Air Transport Association estimate that the partners will have the largest share of the North Atlantic market (see chart) with 28%. The association argues, however, that this falls well short of anti-competitive dominance.

Source: Flight International