Air Transport World

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Restart of U.S. -U.K. bilateral talks could lead to an open-skies agreement by year end. But then again, maybe they won't

This month's restart of U.S.-U.K. talks couldn't come soon enough for British Airways.

Consider its last couple of years:

* Loss of [pounds]100 million a year in almost pure-profit feed from US Airways.

* The uproar over its new tail design.

* Precipitous drop in 1997-98 profits.

* A 2-year delay in the EU decision on its link-up to American.

* Traffic-eroding growth of three other alliances.

* Yield and load factor diving.

* Slowing consumer spending in the U.S. and U.K. following Asia's tumble.

A few bright spots exist. BA has reduced costs, aided considerably, as have been all airlines, by the plummet in fuel price. Fare sales have plugged some gaps in passenger traffic-particularly in Asia-that started showing last year. And in July, EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert finally announced the proposed terms for approval of the BA/AA deal, thus kicking off numerous interrelated steps dependent on the EU.

Among the conditions, the handover of slots to rivals wasn't as bad in actuality as once rumored-267 vs. 350. …

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