The lure of dominating the world’s most lucrative air route has again drawn British Airways and American Airlines to the negotiating table.

At stake is the transatlantic crock of gold, for which the two carriers have already attempted to stake a joint claim. This took to the air exactly five years ago but eventually crashed in the downdraft of antitrust demands - specifically that the pair renounce to rival airlines nearly three hundred of their prized take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport.

The respective chief executives of BA and American, already the dominant duo within the Oneworld global airline alliance, will meet next Monday with US transportation secretary Norman Mineta. Although billed as merely a “courtesy call”, the meeting signals a likely thawing of the regulatory climate within the new US administration.

Says one industry insider: “What has changed is that American Airlines, which failed to deliver Washington last time, feels that with its close relationship with [President] Bush, it can deliver this time.”

Aviation bureaucrats from the two countries are expected to meet later this month in London to resurrect the oft-thwarted "open skies" deal with the aim of concluding this by the year end.

News source: Financial Times