The UK Government has joined the row with the European Commission over whether British Airways should be allowed to sell airport slots as part of the deal allowing its alliance with American Airlines.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott has sided with competition commissioner Karel Van Miert in claiming that the slots should essentially be made available free of charge, while new trade secretary Peter Mandelson is backing views from the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that they should be sold at the market rate.

Mandelson's decision is due on 4 September, and will be made after discussions with the industry on the OFT stance in favour of slot sales, already endorsed by BA as "-the only rational way to allocate scarce resources".

Van Miert's proposals call for the surrender of up to 267 BA slots at London Heathrow and Gatwick. While the OFT supports the main thrust of these ideas, its director, John Bridgeman, maintains slots should be sold. Van Miert has ruled out such sales, saying it is contrary to European law.

Source: Flight International