United pushes for Japan-US open skies

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United Airlines is urging Japan and the US to conclude an open skies agreement to facilitate key joint ventures similar to the JV the carrier is building with other members of Star.

Negotiations between Japan and the US are set to resume in Tokyo on 26 October after the two sides concluded the previous round of discussions last month in Washington, DC. At that time the US State Department said it hoped to reach an agreement on open skies, anti-trust immunity, Tokyo Narita airport slots and service from Tokyo Haneda to the US before the end of 2009.

"An open skies treaty with Japan would put us in a position to advance the possibility of an antitrust-immunized venture with All Nippon Airways [a fellow Star member]," United CEO Glenn Tilton told analysts earlier this week. United is currently working with Air Canada, Lufthansa and future Star member Continental to develop an immunized transatlantic joint venture.

Tilton declined to give much colour on the reported courting of troubled Japan Airlines (JAL) by its current Oneworld alliance partner American and SkyTeam member Delta Air Lines.

But United's chief did caution that "we are very mindful of how difficult it is for an airline to exit alliances and join anotherit has been a significant book of work for Continental to do so. You really need to think hard as a carrier before you make that decision."

If JAL opts to remain in Oneworld, Tilton says the competitive reality for United remains unchanged.

Carrier president John Tague highlights if any of the outcomes under consideration result in JAL becoming a smaller carrier, that "obviously accrues to the benefit of us and our partner ANA".