EU to hold talks with US on wet-lease deal
European Union member states have given the green light for the start of talks with the United States to scrap restrictions on EU airlines leasing planes and crew from US carriers.
The leasing of crewed planes from another airline - known as wet leasing - is a common practice in the industry to boost flexibility in meeting demand, and the 10-year-old EU-US Open Skies aviation services agreement envisaged a liberal regime.
But a dispute arose after the EU separately in 2008 imposed a seven-month duration limit, renewable once, on European airlines wet leasing from non-EU carriers.
That prompted retaliatory action from Washington.
The European Commission will now be able to initiate talks with the United States to remove any time limit on airlines' wet-leasing deals.
"The wet-lease agreement with the United States will create new business opportunities and improve services on both sides of the Atlantic," said Joe Mizzi, the minister for transport and infrastructure in Malta, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
Following the imposition of the EU time limit, the United States began imposing similar duration limits on EU carriers wet leasing from other European Union carriers on their routes to and from the United States.
This made it hard for European airlines to plan routes as they would not know if the wet-leased crews and planes would have permission to fly. (Reuters)