Virgin Atlantic launched its attack at Sir Richard Branson's unveiling of the first stage of its campaign against the planned tie-up. The slogan, 'No Way BA/AA', which will appear on Virgin Atlantic planes, was revealed at Heathrow.
Virgin Atlantic is also planning a major advertising campaign to highlight to regulators and consumers why the planned alliance would push up prices and squeeze out competition.
It claims the data omits significant figures such as the number of passengers making connecting journeys. In a statement, Virgin Atantic said: 'The two airlines are using data which only measures bookings by travel agents and other airlines, which does not give a complete picture. It does not include direct bookings made by BA and AA passengers via the airlines' websites, call centres and at airport ticket desks. These can be a significant proportion of bookings and, in our view, could easily exceed another 1m passengers'.
In their filings to regulators in Washington, BA and AA claim that their market share between Heathrow and the US is 43.6% . Virgin believes the true figure to be above 60%.
At the campaign launch, Branson asked: 'Where are BA's missing millions?'
He added: 'With so many passengers, both BA and AA are able to use their dominance to ensure they have pricing power on transatlantic and other routes. They can strongarm travel agents into recommending BA flights, as they've been fined for doing in the past, even though BA/AA would be more expensive. Corporate customers would also be pressured into signing deals because of the scale of BA and AA's network. BA/AA would have a stranglehold on key routes out of Heathrow and on domestic routes both in Europe and the US.'
British Airways and American Airlines were unavailable for comment.