British Airways has agreed plans to team up with American Airlines and Spain’s Iberia in a move it says will benefit trans-Atlantic passengers.
The alliance would see the three companies co-ordinate prices, routes and schedules, but it must first be approved by US and European regulators.
At a time when airlines are struggling with fuel price rises, BA boss Willie Walsh insists passengers as well as carriers will reap the rewards.
He said: “The consumer can put together flights with one airline and the other, combine fares between one and the other, frequent flier programmes will be combined so it offers the consumer more choice, a wider network, greater flexibility. Great news!”
Together the three airlines already serve more than 100 countries and over four times as many destinations.
The alliance would create a group with around 160 million customers per year.
BA’s rival Virgin Atlantic is urging the US Transport Department to refuse the alliance immunity from anti-competition rules, arguing that it will kill off competition and push air fares up.