21 September 1998

BA poised to unveil global alliances

British Airways and American Airlines are expected this morning to unveil a global airline alliance involving link-ups with Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and Australia's Qantas.

British Airways said yesterday that its chief executive, Bob Ayling, and American's chief Don Carty, would be "among those" presenting details of a "major worldwide airline initiative" at a briefing in London this morning.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific said yesterday that its chief operating officer, Philip Chen, would make a "major corporate announcement" in Hong Kong at the same time as the London briefing.

The announcements are expected to confirm the establishment of a global airline co-operation to rival the Star Alliance, the worldwide network operated by United Airlines and Lufthansa and including SAS, Brazil's Varig, Thai Airways and Air Canada.

A British Airways spokesman yesterday declined to confirm the speculation, and said rumours that British Airways and American Airlines had agreed to link-up with Cathay Pacific were "pure speculation".

British Airways is thought to be keen to get routes into China through Cathay Pacific, and analysts believe any global deal would have to involve a code-sharing arrangement with Qantas, in which British Airways already has a 25pc stake.