Richard Branson has called on the US government to deny British AirwaysÃ¢â‚¬™ request for greater commercial cooperation, including agreement on ticket schedules and prices, with American Airlines.
It is one year since British Airways applied to regulators for anti-trust immunity, which would in effect allow it to dominate Heathrow Airport. According to Branson, BA wants the Ã¢â‚¬Å“global aviation regulatory system to be applied solely in his interestsÃ¢â‚¬Â.
It is already difficult to compete with BA at Heathrow, Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, told the BBC. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We donÃ¢â‚¬™t have plenty of slots, we have been at Heathrow now for almost 20 years and we still have less than three per cent of slots at Heathrow, so we are still a minnow in that sense, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ said Ridgway.
BA has responded by saying it was confident that regulators would agree and dismissed BransonÃ¢â‚¬™s objections. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He wants the regulators to give the Virgin group anti-trust immunity to collaborate with another airline to fly across the Pacific, but claims it would be Ã¢â‚¬ËœanticompetitiveÃ¢â‚¬™ for British Airways to be given the same approval for collaboration with another airline across the Atlantic,Ã¢â‚¬Â BA said.
In May, Virgin Atlantic reported a sharp rise in profits in the year to the end of February, bucking the trend seen by other airlines. Annual pre-tax profits reached Ã¢â€šÂ¤68.4 million (US$109 million), nearly double the Ã¢â€šÂ¤34.8 million reported a year earlier.