US, EUROPEAN OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS ATTEMPTS TO CONTROL TRANS-ATLANTIC AIRLINE ALLIANCES

US, EUROPEAN OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS ATTEMPTS TO CONTROL TRANS-ATLANTIC AIRLINE ALLIANCES

Senior U.S. officials will confront European regulators in Brussels next week over their proposals for reining in trans-Atlantic airline alliances.

Several high-ranking delegates from the departments of state, transportation and justice will meet with European Commission officials at the headquarters of the European Union to discuss conditions regulators plan to levy on the proposed alliance between British Airways and American Airlines, partnerships between United Airlines and Lufthansa and Scandinavian Air Systems, and Delta and its European partners.The commission is also examining the alliance proposed by Air France, Continental and Delta.

Meanwhile, British Airways chairman Robert Ayling was expected to meet today with Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain and aviation subcomittee chairman Slade Gorton.

''The kinds of conditions that (European competition authorities) conveyed to AA-BA for approval made the U.S. very nervous,'' said one person familiar with the trip. ''Some of those are contrary to free-market forces.''

U.S. officials are potentially most disturbed by a European proposal to force BA and American to cut back on service between certain cities, the observer added.

U.S. officials could not be reached for comment. An EU official acknowledged the impending visit and said it would be the first real exchange of views between the two sides.

''We are interested to hear what they think and to compare notes on the key areas,'' said Alexander Schaub, the EU's director of competition.

Mr. Schaub said ''key areas'' of discussion would be access to takeoff and landing slots at European airports, frequent flier programs, and rules for computer reservation systems where alliances are concerned.

The sides are expected to meet Tuesday.

''I understand on the U.S. side there is some skepticism,'' he said.