British Midland is stressing that its plans for transatlantic services announced yesterday are at an early stage and are very much dependent on the signing of an "open skies" air services agreement between the UK and USA.

The airline says the decision is a "move to protect its bases", and predicts that there will be a radical change in the air transport industry once the American Airlines/British Airways alliance is approved.

It adds that returning to long-haul services - which it dropped 15 years ago - has been a long-term strategy for the airline, but that European services will continue to be the airline's "prime focus".

British Midland is demanding that slots released by AA and BA as part of any agreement should be used for European as well as transatlantic services, and notes that transatlantic services will be reliant on feeder traffic from Europe.

The current bilateral air services agreement between the UK and USA allows for two carriers from each country to operate from London Heathrow to the USA. Incumbent carriers are BA, Virgin Atlantic, American and United Airlines. A change to the current "Bermuda 2" bilateral to add a third UK carrier would be considered a major change and the USA has demanded open skies in all recent bilateral negotiations.

Source: Flight Daily News