Both the proposed transatlantic alliance between American Airlines and British Airways (BA) and hopes for a new commercial aviation treaty between the US and British governments appeared dead after federal regulators set conditions that BA said "do not make sense for either company." The Sunday Times (London) and Financial Times reported that the price of approval by the US Department of Transportation was 224 takeoff and landing slots per week at London's Heathrow Airport. They would have had to be yielded mostly by BA so they could be reallocated among four US rivals not now permitted to serve the British capital: Delta, Continental, Northwest, and US Airways. Even then, the Financial Times said, the Transportation Department was prepared to give its OK for the alliance only for three years. BA and American had sought a five-year approval. British officials, meanwhile, said they would not travel to Washington for today's scheduled resumption of talks on the so-called "open skies" agreement, which has been the focus of 10 years of contentious negotiations.
NTL Inc., the New York-based cable television giant that is Britain's largest operator, "will confirm for the first time" this week that it can't meet its $17.3 billion debt, the Sunday Times reported. The newspaper said NTL will ask creditors to write off more than half of the debt as it seeks to "recapitalize." Despite a subscriber base of 3 million in Britain alone, NTL cut 4,000 jobs last year because of a slump in advertising revenue. In 1999, NTL bought controlling interest in three British cable providers, plus one each in the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland.