British Midland continued a long-running bid to enter the transatlantic market yesterday, with a special request to be allowed to start services between London Heathrow and New York.
The European short-haul carrier asked the US government to grant the airline a special exemption from the current restrictive Anglo-US air services agreement.
In a petition to the US Transportation Secretary Mr Rodney Slater, the airline argued that three US carriers were permitted to sell seats on the route, while only two British airlines can fly to New York out of Heathrow.
"It would be appropriate to add British Midland as a third carrier on the route, which is restricted to [ British Airways ] and Virgin Atlantic," the airline said.
Only two US carriers, American Airlines and [ United Airlines ] , are actually allowed to operate services on the route, while [ Continental Airlines ] can only sell seats under a code-sharing alliance with Virgin.
But British Midland said the granting of an exemption would signal "a bold and significant pro-competitive move" at a time when Britain and the US were trying to renegotiate the bilateral air services agreement to allow more carriers into Heathrow.
Negotiators are due to meet in London next week for an informal meeting designed to pave the way to formal talks resuming next month in Washington.
The thorniest issue in eight years of talks has remained access to Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, and the most lucrative for transatlantic air traffic.
But Britain has refused to guarantee runway space for newcomers, and in turn has demanded that the US opens up its domestic market to foreign airlines.
Now, Sir Michael Bishop, chairman of British Midland, has said he believes a compromise is in the offing.
From the Birmingham Post, UK