US Airways bids for new route under open-skies

US AIRWAYS yesterday called on the British and American governments to "jump-start" their stalled open-skies talks by allowing the carrier to begin flying the unused Pittsburgh-Gatwick route.

British Airways, the only airline flying the route, is dropping Pittsburgh from its network at the end of next month as part of a radical cost-cutting programme and US Airways has applied to replace it with a daily service to Gatwick.

The US carrier said that US and UK negotiators would have a chance to consider its application when they meet in London on 18 October to discuss the much more narrow issue of a transatlantic open-skies deal involving cargo.

Larry Nagin, an executive vice-president of US Airways, said: "This is an opportunity to jump start the whole open-skies negotiations and a chance for both governments to show they are dedicated to liberalising services across the Atlantic."

As a quid pro quo for letting US Airways replace BA on the Pittsburgh route, the UK would almost certainly want something in return for its carriers.

One option mooted in aviation circles would be to give Virgin Atlantic permission to start services from London to Las Vegas. Its application was rejected in favour of allowing BA to start a service to Denver.

The other possibility would be to allow British Midland to start flying one of the three transatlantic routes it has licences for but cannot use until Bermuda 2, the air services agreement that governs transatlantic flights, is amended or torn up.