Approval of the proposed tie-up between American Airlines and British Airways "will be absolutely disastrous" for consumers and competitors, British billionaire and Virgin Atlantic head Richard Branson said Thursday at a press conference in Washington. "I cannot guarantee Virgin Atlantic's survival if BA and AA are allowed to merge," he added. However, a spokesman for American Airlines noted the Department of Transportation already has approved antitrust waivers for 16 airlines in two other alliances, and the pending request from Oneworld carriers is "simply seeking to level the playing field."

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