The long awaited merger of American Airlines & US Airways appears to be inching closer to completion after the airlines agreed to give up two sets of slots at Heathrow.
The slots in question are currently used by US Airways to offer daily flights between Heathrow and Philadelphia. With the new merged carrier set to be part of the oneworld alliance, of which British Airways is a member, and with the British airline also flying between Heathrow and Philadelphia, EU regulators had demanded that the new merged airline relinquish the slots so as to maintain competition on the route.
What is less clear is who will take over the slots and whether they will be able to compete with British Airways on the route. With its dominance at Heathrow, and US Airways strong position at Philadelphia, British Airways will be able to offer passengers a huge number of onward connections at both ends, something no other rival will be able to match.
The most likely option is the UK’s only other longhaul airline, Virgin Atlantic, itself re-invigorated after Delta bought 49% of the carrier from Singapore Airlines. With Delta looking to strengthen its position in the transatlantic market, and slots at Heathrow at a premium, it is hard to see them resisting the opportunity to add Philadelphia to Virgin’s roster of east coast destinations.