Airline Chief Warns of Fare Hike

AA & BA discount the claim

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    LONDON - MARCH 14: An information sign inside the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, prior to its official opening on March 14, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    The chief executive of Virgin Atlantic airlines says an alliance strengthening between American Airlines and British Airways could cost you more money if you plan to fly to or from London Heathrow airport.

    Fort Worth-based American Airlines and British Airways were given tentative approval last month to deepen their trans-Atlantic alliance.  The two airlines, which are already part of the OneWorld Alliance, said they are trying to counter competition created by the 2008 flight restrictions between US and Europe being lifted.

    The DOT's decision may become final in mid-April after a comment period.

    In an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, Steve Ridgway said the American Department of Transportation's tentative agreement to the deal would give AA and BA 50 percent of the slots that are currently available at Heathrow. 

    "If you control the market you are going to charge accordingly," Ridgway told the Telegraph.

    Virgin Atlantic unsuccessfully petitioned the American DOT to not approve the agreement.  They're now calling on the European Commission to block the deal.

    "This is the same broken record [Virgin Atlantic] has been playing for a few years now," American Airlines spokesperson Steve Schlachter said during a telephone interview with NBCDFW.   "The DOT obviously believed this agreement is pro-consumer, otherwise they wouldn't have granted tentative approval."

    "It's almost amusing," Schlachter continued, "especially since Virgin Atlantic has slots at Heathrow they don't even use, and they lease them out to other airlines because they can't find a use for them."

    A BA spokesperson told the Telegraph the agreement "would allow OneWorld to compete on an equal footing with the other main global alliances-- Star and Skyteam-- which have larger shares of transatlantic traffic and have been granted anti-trust immunity already. The deal would create the opportunity to generate revenue benefits and savings."

    Ridgway told the Telegraph that, even without the AA/BA deal, fares would likely rise industry-wide as airlines still feel the effects of the recession.