US Airways raises pressure in bid to gain London access Asks halt to British Airways route if Gatwick blocked

March 13, 1998|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- US Airways has upped the stakes in its battle for Charlotte-to-London service, asking regulators to cancel a British Airways New York-to-London flight if the Charlotte flight is blocked by a lack of access to Gatwick Airport.

In a complaint filed yesterday with the Department of Transportation, US Airways said the department "must not countenance the United Kingdom's shackling of US Airways and protection of British Airways' monopoly [on Charlotte service]."

Although US Airways' Charlotte-London flight has been approved under the treaty governing flights between the United States and Britain, Gatwick authorities have refused to allocate takeoff and landing times. Airlines must secure such commitments, called "slots," before they can operate at congested airports.

US Airways asked the DOT to rule by Tuesday, so it will have time to gear up for the May 7 start-up. The department will review the filing before determining whether it can meet the deadline, said spokesman Bill Mosley.

The airline said it did not seek cancellation of British Airways' Charlotte-Gatwick route "so as not to penalize U.S. travelers in the Charlotte area."

But on Monday, it asked the department to block British Airways' application for London-Denver service.

Meanwhile, US Airways gained more powerful backing yesterday. Sen. Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, plans to enlist Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright's help in securing the route, an aide said. Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, ranking Democrat on the committee overseeing the DOT, has also pledged his support.

British Airways spokesman John Lampl said: "There is no basis for sanctions against British Airways. US Airways knows full well that British Airways does not control slots at Gatwick or anywhere else."

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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