10 June 2009

BA AA IB - last chance? Maybe, Maybe Not...

The guns are drawn the submissions are in and the old protagonists are lined up ready for the great shoot out at the Heathrow Coral.
Could this be the last chance for the BAAABI alliance to get its long sought anti-trust alliance approval?
In my humble opinion - there is no certainty one way or the other.

So lets do a quick review.

BA+IB. This has gone nowhere lately due to the GFC and the impact on the premium business market especially LHR-NYC. IB is feeling the pain but perhaps to a lesser extent that BA how is publicly wearing its hair shirt with Willie Walsh being surprisingly open about the extent of the impact on the former UK Flag Carrier. With the pound's fall against the Euro the value proposition would be hard to make in pure financial terms. Therefore I believe that this part of the deal is dead for now.

The Star and DL/AF alliances have powered ahead and built a considerable legal and commercial framework for Transatlantic service. While the product doesn't match the commercial model yet - and it will take some time to do so - these make a compelling case for equal consideration for BA and AA.

Virgin's unaligned status is perhaps the biggest fly in the ointment for the proposed tie up. Sir Richard is vociferous in his opposition. He knows full well that should the alliance be approved then his position as an independent will become almost if not actually untenable.

On the regulatory front - the Regulators have bowed to airline pressure and suspended some key anti-competitive measures such as the use it or lose it rule at major EU airports.

So will it happen?

My personal opinion is that judging from recent approvals under the current incumbent of the EC's Transportation Czar that their will be tacit approval. However not so fast. The EC has launched investigations into the LH dominance while at the same time approving LH's acquisition of BD. There is no rush on anyone's part at the moment. The sea of red ink - with IATA screaming BASTA - will likely be $9 billion this year. There really is no urgency to get this done. The impatience of BA and AA even if Transportation gives them approval will have to wait for significant anti competitive investigation that frankly could take years.

Like I said at the beginning - this has yet to run its course and while another battle with the old gunslingers shooting at each other doesn't mean the end is in sight.

I think we can rest easy in our beds knowing that there will not be any major casualties and even if someone does get wounded - they are going to get up and fight another day. Wyatt Arpy and Doc Walsh are not going to be the heroes, not today anyway.


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