Concessions offered by the USA in early June to try and secure Europe's approval for a limited deal on transatlantic open skies failed to break the deadlock between the two sides.

European Commission (EC) and US negotiators were trying to rescue a liberalisation package following stout UK objections to a late offer from Washington, an offer that would have created new market access opportunities in the USA. However, the package left unresolved the London Heathrow access quandary.

In response to EC demands for additional market access, the Bush administration had made a late proposal to offer European carriers the rights to charter passenger and cargo space on US flights. Also on the table was a proposed right of US carriers to use European-owned aircraft, complete with crews, to fly international routes. European leisure carriers would also be allowed to charter US aircraft or space on US airliners for domestic flights, provided the flight was ultimately operated by the US carrier. The right would have fallen into a relatively obscure regulatory category called "indirect carrier" rights, and was intended to skirt growing US labour objections to any form of domestic cabotage.

After the UK transport minister denounced that offer, EC ministers rejected it too, and US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a statement on the rejection: "I am very disappointed. We remain committed to opening up transatlantic aviation markets. However, given [this] unfortunate decision, we must now review how best to achieve the objective".

The next step is made all the more uncertain as the US election approaches and the handover of key EC negotiating jobs nears. US negotiators had called their last offer a creative way to address European needs while avoiding immovable domestic labour opposition in an election year.


Source: Airline Business