WASHINGTON -- Saying the United Kingdom is dragging its feet in aviation negotiations, the U.S. Transportation Department yesterday approved an expanded operating alliance between USAir and British Airways for only 60 days.
The expanded arrangement, called code-sharing, will allow the two airlines to combine efforts on flights to an additional 28 cities in the United States.
Last March the department approved the code-sharing arrangement for a year to an initial 38 U.S. points. In code-sharing, British Airways and USAir link their flights in reservation computers. Passengers can then fly a leg in the United States and connect to a British Airways overseas flight as if they were flying one airline.
In approving the new service for only 60 days, the Transportation Department cited problems in arranging U.S. airlines' access to Heathrow Airport in London at advantageous times and "slow progress" in renegotiation of the U.S.-U.K. aviation agreement.
Under the circumstances, the expanded code-sharing request from British Airways further strains the U.S.-U.K. relationship "as we enter the most sensitive phase of our renegotiation," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena.
"We have been disappointed with the pace of negotiations thus far in resolving the core issues necessary for a new agreement," he said in a written statement.
Under the 60-day expansion, USAir and British Airways may share codes on flights to 66 U.S. points. The new service may be conducted through more U.S. gateways than those approved last March and may serve Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, as well as London, in the United Kingdom, the Transportation Department said.