Has there been a stranger courtship than that between British Airways and Iberia? The airlines, which have been talking for years, have finally agreed to merge, sort of. I mean, it’ll get there eventually.
I believe talks began in 1784 when King George III, still sad about losing that whole American Revolutionary War thing, decided to go take over Spain instead. (Note: please do not try to double check this in your history books). Though Englaspaña didn’t pan out thanks to bad blood over that whole Armada tiff a couple hundred years earlier, they agreed that were airplanes to ever be invented, they would talk about merging the two entities.
Now, a few hundred years later, the dream has become a reality. Well, almost a reality. If you happen to love BA or Iberia, don’t fret. Not much is likely to change for travelers. Think of it as being similar to the Air France/KLM merger or even Lufthansa’s takeover of, uh, most of Europe. There will now be a holding company called TopCo (wtf) that will be held by the current BA and Iberia shareholders. BA gets 55% and Iberia gets 45%. The brands will remain separate.
Is anyone else surprised how much Iberia is getting in this deal? I mean, I always thought of BA as part of the big three with Lufthansa and Air France, but this just makes them seem tiny. Well, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t hold shares in either company, but even if I did, it’s not a done deal just yet.
There isn’t actually a fully defined agreement yet. That should be done by March . . . 2048. Ok, not really. March 2010 it is. Then they expect the Boards to vote by the end of 2010, and that’s when it will be done . . . assuming the European Union doesn’t have any issues. In other words, let’s talk about this in a year when something might actually be happening.
I had someone ask me whether I thought this meant that the British Airways/American Airlines antitrust immunity proposal would be hurt since Iberia and British Airways were consolidating. I don’t think so at all. Though we talk about BA/AA, Iberia is actually already a part of that deal. So this doesn’t change a thing.
So what do we take away from this? Nothing yet. Just keep waiting and we’ll see if it actually goes through. Until then, keep flying as if nothing happened.