From Mr Richard Branson
Sir, I have been following the dispute between the US and the EU about bananas with interest (letters, March 5, 8 and 10). I cannot help comparing the US Government's claim to moral high ground in this case with its ap- parent determination to maintain the moral low ground in aviation matters.
The US has a policy of discrimi- nating against foreign airlines such as Virgin Atlantic in favour of its own carriers. The list includes the "fly America" policy, under which US civil servants or anyone with a US Gov- ernment contract is forced to use US airlines; restrictions on leasing aircraft to US carriers; attempts to ban gambling on foreign aircraft in inter- national airspace in contravention of international treaty.
This is against a background of repeated US protestations about the benefits of competition and criticisms of the UK for refusing to cave in and accept a new bilateral aviation agreement, which I believe is hopelessly biased towards US airlines.
The UK Government is absolutely right to resist US bullying tactics. Whether it is also right not to react to US discrimination against UK car- riers is more of a moot point. UK civil servants can use US airlines; the latter can bid for Ministry of Defence travel contracts; US aircraft are extensively leased to European companies. The loss of income for UK airlines is considerable.
Perhaps it is time the Government was more forceful regarding blatant discrimination against UK companies. The US authorities might then realise that they cannot preach the benefits of free trade only when it suits them.
Yours faithfully, Richard Branson (Chairman), Virgin Atlantic Airways 11 Holland Park, W11 3TH.