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The BBC's Max Foster
"The mood at this round of talks is more positive"
 real 28k

Monday, 12 June, 2000, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
'Open skies' talks resume
Heathrow airport
Competition is heating up for transatlantic flights
Talks between the UK and the US aimed at bringing more competition to the transatlantic flights market are set to resume on Tuesday.

Negotiations on the "open skies" proposals broke down in January this year.

At this stage, officials are not optimistic that an agreement will be reached.

"This meeting tomorrow and Wednesday will be to establish a framework for substantive talks later, but we haven't got a date yet," a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions said.

US Transport Secretary Rodney Slater has said he wants to conclude an agreement on liberalising passenger and cargo to and from the UK by the end of this year.

At present, only four airlines can offer flights between Heathrow and the US and more airlines from the two countries want access to the lucrative market.

The current agreement allows only British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines to fly direct scheduled flights between Heathrow and the US.

But other airlines, which have seen the large profits that can be raked in on what is a restricted market, have been keen to enter the fray.

Virgin and BA talk

The talks come amid growing speculation of a thaw in relations between British Airways and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic.

Sir Richard is due to meet BA's new chief executive Rod Eddington for lunch on Tuesday.

Relations between the two companies have been tense for years and hit a low-point in the early 1990s when Virgin won a High Court libel case over BA in what became known as the "dirty tricks" campaign.

Sir Richard's relationship with BA's new boss is expected to be much smoother, as they have already met several times when Mr Eddington was head of Australian airline Ansett and of Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific.

The two sides are seeking different outcomes from the open skies talks, but they agree that the UK should not give in to the US without getting something in return for UK air carriers.

The UK is just one of four European countries not to have negotiated an open skies deal with the US.

The others are Greece, Ireland and Spain.

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28 Jan 00 | Business
Heathrow-US flight talks fail
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