Aviation negotiators from the USA and UK are to meet again next month following two days of talks in Washington DC last week described as "constructive" by the UK Government.

The two sides are negotiating a phased progression to an "open skies" air services regime, having failed to make headway in establishing a treaty to replace the Bermuda 2 agreement. A previous mini-deal addressed only Virgin Atlantic and US Airways routes.

Recent airline merger activity, with United Airlines agreeing to buy US Airways - prompting other US carriers to explore similar takeovers - and British Airways discussing a merger with KLM, has created new uncertainties for negotiators, and could make a breakthrough harder to secure.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has meanwhile made a rare foray into the political arena, warning the UK parliamentary transport committee (which is exploring the impasse) that US policy "is to seek an international order for aviation, which would fall short of full liberalisation while benefiting its own airline industry".

The CAA also endorses the view that the European Commission should negotiate with the USA on behalf of the entire European Union. The EC has already filed court actions against countries agreeing deals independently. While signing a limited US-UK deal might benefit the UK in the short term, the CAA says, an agreement might make it "impossible" to achieve full liberalisation.

Source: Flight International