Exactly what has the US-European open skies achieved? Definitely not open skies. While the vision of unlimited opportunities for enrichment may fire up would-be airline buccaneers, they will in fact have to keep their swords sheathed a while longer.

The promised wealth of a true transatlantic El Dorado remains a chimera even after five years of negotiations. Airlines from the old world get the right to compete transatlantically with each other but are not free to compete in the USA - either through investment or cabotage.

The US side, meanwhile, displays all the enthusiam of conquistadores exchanging glass beads for gold. Already happy with the status quo after picking off individual EU states through bilaterals, the US obsession has always been unlimited access to London Heathrow.

Meanwhile, the EU's objective remains to get the USA to yield on ownership. Conceding its most valuable negotiating asset - Heathrow - didn't seem a smart move, although it is a trade-off ultimately protected by the UK's threat of a return to existing limitations should a second-stage deal not materialise by 2011. British Airways chief Willie Walsh's call to restart negotiations right now further challenges US politicians to mirror the enlightened thinking of many of its own airlines. It is time to treat aviation as any other industry where true competition prevails. USA, home of the brave....bring it on!

Source: Flight International