British Airways expects the UK to withdraw from Europe’s open-skies deal with Washington if US domestic air travel is not opened to EU airlines by 2010.
Speaking at German trade show ITB in Berlin last week, BA general manager for Europe Pat Gaffey said: “We expect the UK Government to honour its commitment to withdraw rights to carriers if the US does not extend open skies.”
The deal opens access to transatlantic routes from Heathrow at the end of March, when US carriers will launch a range of services.
Gaffey conceded BA had lobbied against the deal and said: “Heathrow is the crown jewel of European airports and the EC sold it cheap.
“US carriers gained access to Heathrow, access to routes within Europe and routes from Europe. We got no access in the US. We want greater access and the Government has said that unless we get it, the UK will not stay in.”
German airlines have operated under a bilateral open-skies deal with the US since 1996, but Lufthansa head of government affairs Thomas Kropp backed BA’s stance.
Kropp said: “We lobbied for this agreement, but we agree with BA. It is totally unacceptable and we expect it to change. Lufthansa supports Germany’s withdrawal from open skies if a second stage does not deliver.”
Both BA and Virgin Atlantic say there is little chance of fares to the US falling as a result of open skies, despite claims to the contrary by the European Commission.