British Air Chief: American Airlines Deal is Close

The head of British Airways said Monday that he expects to win government approval this year for a deal with American Airlines that would allow the companies to cooperate on trans-Atlantic flights.  

The two carriers are seeking anti-trust immunity, that would let them to set prices and flight schedules together.

Critics, including Virgin Atlantic owner Richard Branson, have argued the BA-AA deal will result in less competition and higher airfares between the US and Europe.

Speaking at an airline conference in Malaysia, British Airways CEO Willie Walsh told the Associated Press, "We expect to get approval in the current calendar year, which will allow us then to proceed with the joint business by 2010."

American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey has said the company expects a decision from the U.S. government and the European Union by October.

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