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Comment: British Airways - busting through barriers

British Airways' plan to set up a wholly owned subsidiary operating Boeing 757s out of Europe's major hubs to the US East Coast looks set to put a cat among the pigeons.

Operators registered in one European Union country setting up satellite operations all over Europe for intra-European operations is not new.

The biggest practitioners are EasyJet and Ryanair. But BA's determination to be in the vanguard of those who take advantage of the new EU/US agreement is going to be watched with interest by competing carriers, departments of transport, and trades unions - particularly pilot associations.

BA has to bust out of its Heathrow straitjacket or see its potential for growth limited, so "Project Lauren", as the venture is coded, is likely to be the first of several moves BA makes in Europe. It sounds like an idea from Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary that Flight International revealed in April, but full-service, not low-cost.

Known as a successful legacy carrier with a talent for selling premium seats, especially across the "Pond", BA is bound to use this venture as an opportunity to break some old moulds.

But which ones? That's what BA and the British Air Line Pilots Association are discussing. In the brave new world into which BA and BALPA are venturing, there will be a high price to pay for failure to agree - for both sides. If BALPA pushes its luck too far it could become a legacy association.


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