American Airlines and British Airways may finally be ready to unveil a deal for an expanded partnership that would include an application for anti-trust immunity. A British Airways spokesman in London told the Associated Press that the deal could be in place for two weeks.
These two airlines have wanted to hook up for years, but various obstacles have prevented it, including regulatory chafing at their dominance at Heathrow Airport in London. Today, however, with the new Open Skies pact making Heathrow more accessible, they may have a better shot at winning the valuable anti-trust exemption. That would allow them to coordinate planning, operations and marketing on overseas flights.
American hasn't yet commented on the statement from British Airways. I'll update the blog as soon as we get a response.
I'll also add my usual disclaimer: This would not mean an outright merger between the two airlines. (That's currently prohibited by U.S. law, in fact.) They would still be independent companies.
UPDATE, 10:43 A.M.
American spokesman Tim Smith wouldn't say much about the report. Here's what he told me a few minutes ago:
"We continue to have discussions with British Airways, and we're hopeful that the discussions will bear fruit soon. But we're not ready to put a time frame on this yet."