The US is hoping to wrap up the next stage in aviation bilateral negotiations with the UK by October, with talks focusing on US carriers' rights to move London flights from Gatwick to Heathrow. But an initial UK proposal gave little solace to US carriers.

In exchange for full access for UK carriers to the Fly America programme - approval to fly US government officials - London put forward a two-tiered proposal. The US would receive one new Heathrow service that could be served by a second designated carrier from Boston or Miami, or from another existing US gateway by an airline not operating to the coveted London airport.

The second part of the proposal, ominously termed the 'zero sum switch,' attempted to address the US desire to move its carriers from Gatwick to Heathrow: a switch of service to Heathrow would be matched by the same carrier in the other direction. This, it was generally understood, would permit American to shift its Miami service to Gatwick in exchange for moving the Dallas route to Heathrow.

Though the US had yet to respond to this proposal in the lead up to a September round of discussions in London, the UK's offer was not greeted with enthusiasm. The optimum deal for the US at this stage is a package that includes switching three Gatwick routes to Heathrow and a new service into Heathrow from New York/JFK, for which TWA is angling. But this, even TWA admits, is a remote possibility. 'We had the impression [the UK] wanted to provide true opportunities,' says TWA vice president of market planning Scott Gibson. 'But they only stress the limited opportunities.'

Source: Airline Business