The US government sees liberalising air services agreements with the emerging economies such as China and Russia, Latin America and the Caribbean as key priorities, according to a senior member of its bilateral negotiating team. Brian J Hedberg, Senior Air Services Negotiator with the US Department of Transportation’s Office of International Aviation, told The HUB: “Russia and China are the priority.”
“We are in a very positive place with the Russians and we are taking a look at a wide range of things including over flight rights, greater market access and additional service points,” he added.
Under the last agreement signed between the two countries in 2009, the US has the right to designate up to six combination (passenger or cargo) airlines and three all-cargo carriers to operate to services to Russia, which in turn has the right to designate up to nine combination or all-cargo airlines, to operate services on the routes.
“We are in a very positive place with the Russians and we are taking a look at a wide range of things including over flight rights, greater market access and additional service points.”Brian J Hedberg
Senior Air Services Negotiator with the US Department of Transportation’s Office of International Aviation
The agreement also limits the numbers of airlines allowed to operate a particular city pair and restricts the number of weekly over flight services that are allowed over Russian territory.
Within Latin America, the current agreement with Mexico also “needs significant modernisation in almost every element” said Hedberg, who pointed to the need to overhaul safety and security. Elsewhere, Argentina is also a focus for US Department of Transportation officials.
“The Mexican government is willing to engage with us but with Mexicana still in the bankruptcy process it makes it difficult for them to be sure where there position is.”
In the Caribbean there were a number of islands that could benefit from more US air services, Hedberg said, but a major stumbling block was the vague legal framework of the bilateral agreements currently in place, leaving airlines unsure of their rights and unwilling to risk launching new routes.