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U.S. TO SPEED PROCESS OF GRANTING LONDON ROUTES

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The United States will use an expedited procedure in awarding two airline routes to London that are the focus of an intense competition among U.S. cities and carriers.

The Transportation Department announced it will forgo the appointment of an administrative law judge to hold public hearings to review six applications for the routes, a procedure that likely would have delayed a final decision until next year.The department instead will make a preliminary decision, probably in the fall, and ask for comments from all sides before the final award of the routes before the end of the year. The department said Sept. 10 is the deadline for submitting written briefs by the applicants prior to the preliminary decision.

American Airlines has applied to fly to London from Nashville, Tenn., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Delta Air Lines proposes a Salt Lake City route.

Nashville and Raleigh-Durham also have filed separate applications to acquire the routes; and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico has asked to designate San Juan as a gateway to London to be served by American Airlines.

The competition began after the Clinton administration in March approved the British Airways purchase of a 19.9 percent stake in USAir for $300 million and coordination of the two airlines' operations.

As part of the deal, USAir agreed to surrender its three U.S.-London routes - from Baltimore, Charlotte, N.C., and Philadelphia.