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GAO Hands Airline Alliance Small Landing-Rights Victory

From Bloomberg News

AMR Corp. Chairman Robert Crandall praised a U.S. government report that says U.S. airlines should be guaranteed access to at least 23 daily round- trips to London’s Heathrow Airport if an American Airlines’ alliance with British Airways is approved.

Crandall called the General Accounting Office study “an excellent report that captures our view in almost every respect.”

The GAO, in a report presented before the Senate aviation subcommittee, handed the alliance partners a small victory when it said that BA and AMR-owned American Airlines do not have to provide all the landing and takeoff slots to competitors.

Some of the additional landing rights, the GAO’s John Anderson said Wednesday, could come from more efficient use of Heathrow’s existing runways and gate facilities and also from planned expansion at the European gateway airport.

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Still, the alliance “raises significant competitive issues,” Anderson said.

He said the bulk of those slots would have to come from BA and American’s combined 3,352 weekly slots. “The lion’s share will have to come from the lion,” Anderson said.

Anderson also said the exact number of slots that should be given up at Heathrow was not for the GAO to decide, and the number he used in his report was only a suggestion.

Crandall said the report bolstered his long-standing assertion that many of the slots needed for new entrants to compete at Heathrow are already available.

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On another subject, Crandall criticized the U.S. Transportation Department for foot-dragging in its review of the BA-American alliance application. “I give the DOT an ‘F’ for its processing of our application,” he said. “We think it is time to approve the alliance.”


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