U.K.'s bmi Seeks Closer Ties with United Air : The Times

British airline bmi and United Airlines of the United States have applied to the U.S. government to form an alliance that would effectively merge their transatlantic operations, the Times reported on Wednesday.

Under the plan, passengers would only deal with one airline when they book a flight, the newspaper said. The companies would remain separate, however, it added.

"This paves the way to an alliance, it does not guarantee it," bmi Chief Executive Nigel Turner was quoted in the newspaper as saying. "We want to put in place all the steps now to fully take advantage of 'open skies'."

EU transport ministers unanimously backed the "open skies" proposal to open up aviation markets between the United States and the European Union last month.

Taking advantage of the pact, the two airlines sought permission to create an alliance from next March in a submission to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday, according to the Times.

Bmi and UAL's United Airlines are already members of the Star Alliance but the new plan would forge an even closer relationship, it added.

A spokesman for bmi was not immediately available for comment.