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EU signals agreement with Oneworld

  |   March 10, 2010 at 6:11 PM
BRUSSELS, March 10 (UPI) -- The European Commission signaled Wednesday it is prepared to accept a deal that would pave the way for an expanded Oneworld airline alliance.

The alliance, which includes British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia, agreed to give up landing and takeoff slots in London and New York for antitrust clearance, which would allow the alliance more flexibility in their partnership, The New York Times reported.

The Times said the European Commission had scheduled a public comment period through April 10, which is generally scheduled after the commission has reached an informal conclusion the terms are agreeable.

Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, a British Airways rival, called the deal -- in which the airlines would lease slots to competitors at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in Britain and John F. Kennedy International in New York -- "woefully inadequate."

The deal would also grant BA, American and Iberia frequent flyer miles to passengers on other airlines, the Times said.

In September the commission informed the three airlines of its antitrust concerns. Together, BA, American and Iberia control 47 percent of the landing and takeoff slots at Heathrow.

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