The United States and the European Union are close to agreeing on a deal which would abolish all time limits on wet-leases for operations covered by the US-EU Open Skies Agreement, AIN has reported.

The representatives of the European Commission and the US were reportedly ready to sign an agreement in principle in early May but had to postpone the conclusion of the talks due to a linguistic issue. Reportedly, the French delegation demanded that the official version of the treaty is signed in French.

While the parties have had an Open Skies agreement in force since March 2008, it does not currently fully apply to flights operated under a wet-leasing contract with a third party.

Airlines domiciled in either the EU (plus Iceland and Norway) or the US are in general free to launch transatlantic routes between any points in the EU, Iceland and Norway and any points in the US, provided that they offer adequate customs and border control facilities. Initially, the agreement did not differentiate between flights operated directly by the airlines or by another company under a wet-lease contract.

However, in 2008 the EU, in a move seemingly unrelated to the entry into force of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, imposed a time limit of seven months, renewable once, for all wet-leasing contracts which cover a partnership between an EU airline and a non-EU aircraft provider. In a tit-for-tat move, the US subsequently started to put up bureaucratic obstacles effectively hindering the operation of EU carriers to the US with aircraft wet-leased from other parties.

The agreement will again fully remove any time limits on wet-leased operations under the scope of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement.

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, some of the airlines currently wet-leasing aircraft for their transatlantic operations include Thomas Cook Airlines UK (from AirTanker), Aer Lingus (from ASL Airlines Ireland), Eurowings (from Brussels Airlines and SunExpress Deutschland), Norwegian UK (from Hi Fly), Primera Air Scandinavia (from National Airlines and euroAtlantic Airways), and Norwegian (from euroAtlantic Airways and Privilege Style).