Air Transport World

Part three in the Bermuda Triangle; and now, after Bermuda I, Bermuda II, and assorted revisions, it is once again time for a major change in the U.S.-U.K. bilateral.

Part three in the Bermuda Triangle

"Oh, to be in England,' wrote English poet Robert Browning during a trip abroad. The man obviously never had to negotiate a bilateral with his countrymen, nor try to interpret its meaning afterwards.

The United States and Great Britain are in the early stages of talks aimed at revising the Bermuda II bilateral signed in July 1977. The immediate prod is the expiration of the pact's highly controversial capacity language, known as Annex 2, in July 1986. But, in the years since Bermuda II was signed there have been more than enough other factors to cause a serious reappraisal of air service relations.

Bilateral talks with the British are never easy for the U.S. For one thing, the U.S.' multi-agency, multi-airline interests historically have meant disagreements before and even during talks. The British, who are masters at establishing a strategy before-hand and not deviating from it, make that diversity pay off for themselves.

Important route

Second, the U.S.-U.K. route is the densest in the world. It is quite important to several airlines.

Third, the regulatory philosophies of the two countries are still at odds, although the British, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, are loosening their governmental grip somewhat. The U.K. has even signed an open skies capacity agreement with the Dutch--because it is in the British carriers' interest to do so. So far, those same carriers have not viewed an open skies pact with the U.S. in the same light.

When the U.S. and U.K. signed their first major bilateral in 1946 many assumed that Bermuda I would be a model not only for the two signatories, but for others and for a good long time. A long time turned into 31 years, when, in 1977, Bermuda II was created following British denunciation of the former "model.' The British, mired in economic problems, wanted to gain control of pricing and capacity, and to reduce U.S. beyond rights out of England. They achieved much of their objective in Bermuda II, a name they chose by the way.

Many in the U.S. were outraged by the pact. They felt the U.S. delegation, led by "special ambassador' Alan Boyd, gave up too much. But Boyd was under marching orders from new President Jimmy Carter to get an agreement, and not hit the poor, economically weak British when they were down.

It is ironic, of course, that Carter, who became synonymous with deregulating transportation, and new CAB Chairman Alfred E. Kahn, the chief force behind airline deregulation, both were in power when Bermuda II was signed. In fact, the ink was hardly dry on the agreement before Kahn, stung by a British turndown of new entrant Braniff's fares to London, was saying he wanted to "stick it to the Brits. …

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