Julian Moxon/PARIS

Failure of the latest round of negotiations on a bilateral deal between France and the USA has put at risk a major element of the commercial agreement between Air France, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines and American Airlines' separate plans to link with Air Liberté.

The talks foundered on continued differences over the timescale for a full "open-skies" accord between the two countries. In October, hopes were boosted when France reduced its deadline for total air-transport liberalisation from seven to five years, the USA increasing its own deadline from three to four years. The one-year difference remains unresolved, however, with both sides hardening their positions as the summer-season deadline for agreement approaches. The two countries have agreed to meet again in the first quarter of 1998.

This is almost certainly too late to meet Air France/Delta/Continental plans for introduction in time for the summer season of full codeshared flights between France and the USA. Initial moves towards this end have already been made, all three carriers having harmonised their frequent-flier schemes and timetables, and the US carriers shifting their Paris bases from Orly to Charles de Gaulle, where Air France has established its new hub operations. The failure does not affect Delta's purchase of a stake in French regional Proteus Airlines, which was completed recently.

A similar move by American Airlines to tie up a codeshare deal with British Airways subsidiary Air Liberté has also stalled pending a successful outcome of the talks.

The French civil-aviation authority "hopes" that a February date for the next bilateral meeting can be arranged "but nothing is certain at this point". It also says that the Government continues to oppose a deal "-that would leave serious imbalances between the advantages that would be gained for US and French airlines".

Source: Flight International