Although the early June US-UK 'interim' agreement found favour with United Airlines and British Airways, the US Department of Transportation now faces considerable pressure from rivals American Airlines, Continental Airlines and TWA to broaden Heathrow rights in the next round of negotiations.

However there has at least been some movement. The 'first step' includes the Chicago-Heathrow Boeing 767 authority for United; open access to UK regional airports for both sides; expanding BA's Philadelphia rights to double-daily service; approval of the final portion of the BA-USAir codeshare alliance, giving BA access to 70 more US cities; approval for BA to bid for US government travellers in the US's Fly America programme from Baltimore, Tampa, Philadelphia and San Francisco; and significant new codeshare rights for US carriers from London.

But American is angry over United's new Chicago-Heathrow service and Continental is upset because new services for BA at Philadelphia will seriously affect its London/Gatwick flights from Newark. Federal Express, meanwhile, is disappointed that cargo liberalisation has yet to be achieved.

Further negotiations are scheduled for July, August and September and a working group session will be held in mid-June. The US is expected to take a new tack in winning new London/Heathrow services by pushing for dormant rights in the bilateral to be moved to more advantageous US gateways. This could allow unused authorities to be moved from cities like Baltimore or Anchorage to New York or Dallas.

Source: Airline Business