Virgin Atlantic is launching a campaign against the proposed merger of British Airways and American Airlines, which would involve a combined route network serving 443 destinations in 106 countries with 6,200 daily departures.Sir Richard argues the merger would lead to price-fixing and force travel agents to put business their way.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ahead of the campaign launch at Heathrow Airport, he said he expected regulators to reject the merger.
“The competition authorities listened to us twice before and rejected the idea of BA and AA working effectively as one airline because they believed it to be anti-competitive,” Sir Richard said.
“We believe nothing has changed, and we are going to wage a major battle to try to stop the two biggest carriers in the world from effectively working as one carrier, being able to sit down behind closed doors and fix prices and, we believe, damage the smaller competitors on the routes.”
The slogan “No Way BA/AA” will be painted on the side of his company’s planes. The airline is also planning a major advertising campaign against the planned alliance.
Similar merger proposals stalled in 1997 and 2001.
But BA chief executive Willie Walsh said the new deal, which also involves Spanish carrier Iberia, would be good for both passenger and the aviation industry against a backdrop of a harsh economic downturn and the new Openskies policy.
Mr Walsh said: “These arguments are old, they are out of date, it’s time to move on.
“We have got a new operating regulatory environment, a new competitive environment - move with the times.”