UPDATE 3-EU executive clears BA, American, Iberia deal

* Oneworld members to cede some landing/take-off slots

* EU clears BA, Iberia merger without conditions

* Oneworld members’ concessions for 10 years

* BA shares up 0.3 pct, Iberia 0.6 pct higher

* Virgin Atlantic against EU decisions
(Adds AMR shares, CEO comment)

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS, July 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Oneworld members British
Airways (BAY.L: ), American Airlines (AMR.N: ) and Iberia (IBLA.MC: )
won EU antitrust clearance on Wednesday to deepen their pact
after agreeing to cede some lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.

The European Commission, the EU competition watchdog, also
unconditionally cleared British Airways’ merger with Spain’s
Iberia.

The Oneworld members want to broaden their pact to take
advantage of the “Open Skies” agreement between the United
States and the European Union, which liberalises trans-Atlantic
aviation.

The Commission said the carriers’ concessions, which are
legally binding, were sufficient to ease competition concerns
and that it was dropping its investigation launched in April
last year.

“Today’s decision will enable the airlines to put in place
the trans-Atlantic alliance they have long aspired to while
ensuring that the around 2.5 million passengers … continue to
benefit from a choice of frequencies and competitive prices,”
Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

British Airways shares were up 0.3 percent at 1304 GMT and
Iberia 0.6 percent firmer, outperforming a 0.6 percent lower
Stoxx 600 travel and leisure index (.SXTP: ).

British Airways welcomed the EU clearance, saying U.S.
regulators are expected to issue a final decision on antitrust
immunity shortly and that the airlines planned to launch their
trans-Atlantic joint business in the autumn.

Shares of American Airlines parent AMR Corp were up 1
percent at $7.20 in morning trade on the New York Stock
Exchange.

“We await final action by the U.S. Department of
Transportation on our proposal that will result in more
competition in the trans-Atlantic marketplace and thus provide
significant public benefit,” said Gerard Arpey, chief executive
of AMR.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told
Reuters on July 9 that the Commission would clear the deal.
[ID:nLDE6680WA]

The three carriers agreed to cede some landing and take-off
slots for routes between London and Dallas, Boston, Miami and
New York.

Other concessions include allowing access to their
frequent-flyer programmes on those routes and submitting data
on their cooperation plan to the Commission. The commitments
are for 10 years.

SHAMEFUL

Virgin Atlantic [VA.UL] called the EU decision “shameful,”
saying the proposals did not address the competitive harm
resulting from the three-way tie-up.

Online travel service travelsupermarket.com said the
regulatory decisions would benefit consumers.

“Should these projects take off, it will be great news for
travellers and will potentially see more affordable fares,
better connections and improved service in the air and on the
ground on both European and the important transatlantic
routes,” Bob Atkinson from the service said.

The Commission said the combined British Airways and Iberia
would not significantly impede competition in the European
Economic Area.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in February
tentatively allowed the three airlines antitrust immunity on
trans-Atlantic routes.

Star Alliance, which includes Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: ) and
United Airlines (UAUA.O: ), and SkyTeam, with members Air France
(AIRF.PA: ) and Delta (DAL.N: ), have already been granted U.S.
antitrust immunity.

Almunia, who is now probing some members of these proposed
alliances, said the investigation on the Star Alliance was
going to end before that for SkyTeam.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; additional reporting by Rosalba
O’Brien in London and Kyle Peterson in Chicago; Editing by Mike
Nesbit)

UPDATE 3-EU executive clears BA, American, Iberia deal