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At last: Airline mergers given legal approval

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Gerard Arpey, CEO of AMR Corp , BA CEO Willie Walsh and Antonio Vazquez, chairman and CEO of Iberia

AMERICAN AIRLINES (AA), BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) AND IBERIA have kicked off their transatlantic joint venture by announcing four new routes between the US and Europe. From next year, AA will start flights between New York JFK and Budapest, and Chicago and Helsinki, while BA will start operating between London Heathrow and San Diego. The fourth route, with Iberia, will be between Madrid and Los Angeles. All start in April 2011.

The CEOs of the three Oneworld airlines met in London to launch the new routes after receiving the go-ahead from shareholders. Gerard Arpey, CEO of AMR Corp, AA's parent company, said: "We have been waiting for 14 years to be able to bring these benefits to our customers and it's great news that we can now put our plans into action."

In addition to the new routes, the trio have announced a series of codeshares. AA will add its code to 322 BA and Iberia flights to 101 destinations, BA will do the same on 2,063 AA and Iberia flights serving 181 destinations, and Iberia will start code sharing on 354 AA and BA flights to 96 destination.

Willie Walsh, BA's CEO, said the new routes are an example of how the airlines working together will benefit customers. "Combined selling and scheduling means that we will be able to operate routes that would not have been viable for us to operate individually," he said. "This partnership will provide a one-stop shop for transatlantic travel regardless of how you book, which of our airlines you fly with or where you want to transfer."

Antonio Vazquez, chairman and CEO of Iberia, said: "The growth potential of our joint business and the extra capacity Madrid offers will enable Barajas to become one of the main gateways between North America and Europe in the very near future."

MEANWHILE, the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines to create the world's largest airline has also been legally completed. The two airlines are now part of United Continental Holdings, and will start to be integrated into one single airline, called United Airlines. The next stage, expected to take between 12 and 18 months, will see the Continental name disappear from the skies, with the airline to be called United. The logo, however, will feature the globe of Continental.