American, British Airways agreement gets final approval

Friday, May 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ American Airlines and British Airways will be able to sell seats on each other's flights, except for nonstop trips between the United States and London, under a code-sharing agreement approved Friday by the Transportation Department.

The airlines had previously asked for antitrust immunity, which would have allowed them to plan and coordinate services. They dropped that request in the final application, the department said.

In a statement, the Transportation Department said the arrangement ``will produce new opportunities to the public benefiting passengers, shippers and communities.''

Code-sharing allows airlines to reach more places without flying more planes and to offer reciprocal benefits. Though American and British Airways already had an agreement to allow their customers to earn and redeem frequent flyer points on each others' airlines, the agreement will make it easier for customers to do so, said Andrea Rader, American Airlines spokeswoman.

``We're awful pleased to finally get this going,'' Rader said.

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, applauded the decision because it will promote competition.

``As the airline marketplace becomes more globalized, what we're going to see in the future is not competition between individual airlines, but among various airline alliances,'' Stempler said. ``The stronger each alliance is, the more competition there will be.''

Transportation officials tentatively approved the agreement on April 9.