TEXT OF INTERVIEW
SCOTT JAGOW: At the British parliament today, two airlines — British Airways and Virgin — will make their case against a possible open skies agreement between the U.S. and Europe. Our correspondent Stephen Beard joins us with more. What’ll they be saying Stephen?
STEPHEN BEARD: This, we should say, is an extremely unusual event. These two are archrivals but they clearly both regard the draft agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. to liberalize transatlantic air travel as a threat and they are determined to scotch it.
JAGOW: What do they have against it?
BEARD: Well they say this agreement is too one-sided, it gives the U.S. airlines more rights to fly within Europe than it gives European airlines the right to fly within the U.S. between American cities. They also argue that U.S. restrictions on foreign ownership of American airlines remain in tact and that they argue further restricts access to the American aviation market, which is the richest aviation market in the world.
JAGOW: Well what is the purpose of the open skies agreement in the first place?
BEARD: The purpose is to open up transatlantic air travel. At the moment you have flying, for example, between Heathrow and the U.S. only four airlines, two American and two European. Critics say that really these two airlines, Virgin and BA, have a very privileged position at Heathrow. They’re the only two European airlines with takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow. If this deal goes ahead, other airlines will be allowed in, there’ll be more competition on the transatlantic routes, airfares will fall, British Airways and Virgin profits will suffer.
JAGOW: Alright Stephen, thank you so much,
BEARD: OK Scott.
JAGOW: Our European correspondent Stephen Beard.
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