The United States and Belgium have signed a new agreement governing air services between the two countries that could pave the way for lowfare scheduled service to the European continent.
The general tenor of the agreement is in sharp contrast to the controversial "Bermuda II" agrement negotiated with the United Kingdom this summer. Administration and Civil Aeronautics Board officials hope that the Belgian agreement, may serve as a blueprint for air negotiations with other countries.
Many other countries, including Japan and Italy, are seeking the kinds of restrictive provisions included in the agreement with the U.K.
In contrast, the recently approved U.S.-Belgian agreement:
Contains specific language encouraging the low-fare scheduled service.
Places no limitations on the numbers of carriers the U.S. can designate to fly to Belgium. (The British agreement fixed the numbers of carriers between cities)
Allows the U.S. to set the rules governing charters going to Belgium and vice versa. Most European countries insist that U.S.-originating charters can't land unless they meet European charter rules on advance-purchase and minimun-stay requirements.
The United States gave Belgium's airplane, Sabena, the landing rights to Atlanta it was seeking. Until now, Belgium was one of only two western European countries with the authority to land in only one U.S. city, a CAB official said yesterday.
In testimony before the Senate Aviation Subcommittee yesterday, CAB Chairman Alfred E. Kahn referred briefly to the new Belgian pact as an example of what can be achieved in international air talks when the U.S. negotiators have a clear plan, know in advance the minimum acceptable terms of an agreement, and seek to trade off new opportunities instead of restrictions.
In opening hearings into how U.S. international aviation policy is developed and implemented, Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) criticized the U.S.-U.K. agreement as an "abdication of U.S. interests" in international aviation and chided the administration for championing more competition in the domestic airline industry while succumbing to British pressure to greatly restrict competition in air services between the two countries.
Since Bermuda II was signed, however, the administration has issued a policy statement emphasizing what the President hopes negotiators will achieve in the future, and his stress was on more competition and consumer benefits.
Kahn yesterday said he believed there is now a "consensus" that the British agreement represents "a substantial departure" from the kind of system the U.S. generally seeks in international aviation and that "it should not be viewed as a model for future agreements with other countries.