Willie Walsh, the new chief executive of British Airways, has pinned his growth strategy on the hope that the European Union will successfully conclude an 'open skies' agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration.

He shouldn't hold his breath, as the talks have been rumbling on (and off) for nearly ten years. The last attempt to reach agreement nosedived in June 2004 when EU ministers vetoed a deal proposed by federal negotiators.

Nonetheless, Walsh claims to be optimistic that new talks between the two camps, due to restart this month, will open the door to closer links between BA and its US partner, American Airlines.

The two airlines are leading members of the Oneworld Alliance which also includes Australia's Qantas and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.

Any change in the BA-AA relationship would initially see co-ordination of scheduling and pricing on North Atlantic routes. A second step might lead to the creation of a profit and revenue-sharing joint venture on overlapping routes across the North Atlantic.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff