Yesterday provided more proof that things can change pretty quickly in Open Skies negotations, even after years of zero progress.
Thursday was supposed to be the last day of the current round of Open Skies talks between the U.S. and Japan in Washington. At noon Thursday, an industry briefing by the U.S. negotiators did not sound very promising. And by late afternoon, the prospects of reaching a deal in time appeared to be fading.
But the situation changed in the evening, with the Japanese negotiators agreeing to stay in Washington on Friday in an effort to close out the deal. And sources say progress is being made on some of the thorniest unresolved issues. It now looks as if an agreement could be initialed by late afternoon or evening today.
The biggest of these issues is access to Tokyo Haneda airport. It looks as if Japan is still not willing to allow transpacific flights from Haneda airport during the day, but U.S. negotiators were pretty much resigned to that.
Japan is insisting that transpacific flights be confined to nighttime hours starting at 10pm. However, this creates a problem for U.S. airlines, because they would essentially have to have a flight arriving at Haneda at 10pm, then turning around and departing a few hours later. It would be easier for Japanese airlines to position aircraft at Haneda during the day to depart at 10pm – giving them an advantage over the US carriers. Sources say the U.S. negotiators have been pressing for a compromise, with Japanese carriers not allowed to depart on transpacific flights until around midnight. This would mean the U.S. and Japanese airlines would have similar departure times. While there was resistance to this idea, this could now be the compromise that solves the Haneda stalemate.