EU Must Keep Sights High

British Airways has urged the European Commission to keep its sights high on the ‘open aviation area’ talks between and within the United States and Europe. Speaking at the European Aviation Club in Brussels, Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways, said he was encouraged by the progress made in the first two rounds of negotiations.

However, he said, “The United States’ current proposal falls far short of Europe’s objective of achieving a truly liberal open aviation area.

“It is also essentially unbalanced and would provide unlimited 5th freedom rights* within the European Union for all American passenger and cargo airlines while providing no access at all to the US domestic market for Europe’s airlines.

“It removes operating restrictions between the European Union and the United States, but makes no progress towards achieving a truly liberalised market.”

Real progress could not be made until the United States unlocked its refusal to consider access to its domestic market, agreed cabotage rights* within the United States for Europe’s airlines and the removal of foreign ownership restrictions.

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Opening up the Fly America programme*, guaranteeing code-share approvals and removing the restrictions on wet-leasing* were also key objectives for Europe’s airlines, he said.

Signing up to a phased arrangement that gives the United States its negotiating objectives with a promise of turning to Europe’s at a future date would be na├»ve, he continued.

“History teaches us that there would be no incentive for the US to come back to the table once they have got their model of open skies in place”.

He acknowledged that progress during an election year in America might be difficult and that more headway may be possible in the early term of the next administration when the United States’ economic recovery was more firmly established.

“If it proves to be that there is little prospect of progress in the immediate future on issues which justified giving the commission its mandate in the first place, the best path for the commission to keep its sights high and keep pressing its case,” he said.
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