The Second Battle Of Britain

UNITED AIRLINES HAS been grounded by archrival American Airlines' Machiavellian tactics over valuable London landing rights. United wanted to fly directly from its Chicago O'Hare hub to London's Heathrow--and bag an extra $200 million in yearly revenue.

United's Chicago passengers now must fly to other domestic airports with Heathrow routes. American has the same hassle from its Dallas hub. To get a direct Heathrow link for United, U.S. negotiators had agreed to give British Airways an added daily flight to Philadelphia.

Enter American. It persuaded Washington to get it in on the Heathrow deal. U.S. bargainers pushed American's plan to give it and other carriers Heathrow and, in exchange, let federal workers fly on BA. But the British rejected that, feeling the relatively small-volume federal-worker business was not a fair trade. So the talks fell apart. United says it won't quit trying for Heathrow. American Airlines officials say they counted more on scotching United's plans than getting their own new route.