Peru has leapfrogged past Chile in its open skies negotiations and agreed to a deal that phases in liberalisation over four years.

The open skies agreement was initialled on 9 May but not made public by presstime. The deal follows the pattern of recent treaties signed with Japan and France in which full open skies will be achieved over a set period of time, with certain deadlines stipulated for each year of the phase-in. In Peru's case, frequencies and new routes will be added over four years from 12 June 1998. All cargo operations, including seventh freedom rights, will be completely liberalised from June 1999. The deal is described by US negotiators as 'quite substantial.'

Peru has forged ahead with liberalisation following just two sets of negotiations. In doing so, it has effectively overtaken Chile, which last year initialled a document stating its willingness in principle to complete an open skies agreement, but with the precondition of US approval of an immunised codeshare between LanChile and American Airlines. The Department of Transportation is still considering the request.

The increasing concern being shown in Washington DC over alliances and their effects on competition means an answer could be some months away, but Chile shows no signs of backing down.

Peru's enthusiasm for open skies has not been tempered by warnings from Federico Bloch, chief executive officer at the Taca Group, about potential pitfalls. Bloch has accused the US of not keeping to its word as, despite liberalisation, he has been unable to complete a codeshare agreement with American Airlines. Despite the warnings, AeroPeru and Delta Air Lines have signed a marketing alliance in which they plan to codeshare and reciprocate each other's frequent flyer programme. Pending government approval, AeroPeru will codeshare on Delta's new Atlanta- Lima service, starting 1 July.

Argentina has also completed a first round of open skies talks and has indicated its commitment to completing a deal. But, as with Chile, those talks are on hold because Argentina is first seeking approval of an alliance between Aerolineas Argentinas and American. That alliance, which involves American taking a stake in Aerolineas, is being reviewed by the DOT and Department of Justice.

Source: Airline Business