A tie up between British Airways and American Airlines has been given the blessing of the EU Commission. The airlines are now a step closer to being able co-ordinate their transatlantic schedules, work together on ticket pricing and share revenues. The commission has also approved BA’s merger with Iberia.

In order to proceed with the tie-up on transatlantic routes the airlines have had to surrender four pairs of take-off and landing slots between Gatwick and Heathrow in London and Miami, Dallas and Boston. If services are seen to drop below their current levels between London and New York, then a further three pairs of slots will be given up on the route.

The EU Commission has agreed that the concessions made by the airlines are good enough to allay any concerns about competition, and the Commission has announced that it will be dropping its competition investigations.

BA boss, Willie Walsh, said that the commitment to giving up the slots was a decision made so that the new venture could get going as soon as possible. It would also ensure that there could be no loss of competition as a result of the new venture, he added.

Virgin Atlantic is far from convinced. Sir Richard Branson, the airline’s president, said that his airline had been opposed to such a merger for the past 13 years. He added that he still believed that consumers would be the ones to suffer. He went on to say that by approving the deal, the EU had created a playing field which was extremely uneven.