The US Department of Transportation (DOT) says it has suspended proceedings against European Union-based carriers, as well as those based in Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, regarding their use of long-term, EU-based ACMI capacity.

In late February, the DOT had issued a Show Cause in which it threatened to withdraw authorisations from March 30 onwards for EU-EU wet-lease contracts that had run, and would run, for more than 14 months. The Department said at the time that it had decided to proceed with the action given the EU's delays in ratifying a Wet Lease Agreement that would mitigate the impact of EU regulation 1008/2008. US-based carriers claim the law has disadvantaged them in that it only allows non-EU carriers to wet-lease to EU carriers for an initial duration of seven months, with the opportunity for one extension for another seven-month period (i.e. for a maximum total of 14 months).

Given the threat of severe operational disruptions and losses, several operators have since submitted pleadings to the DOT not to finalise the order including Lufthansa Group (whose Lufthansa and Eurowings subsidiaries wet-lease capacity from Lufthansa CityLine and SunExpress Deutschland respectively), Cargolux (which has a reciprocal wet-lease agreement with Cargolux Italia), and Aer Lingus (which wet-leases B757 capacity from ASL Airlines Ireland). Several US airports also submitted pleadings against finalisation.

As such, the DOT said in a statement on Wednesday, March 13, that it had suspended proceedings given recent EU commitments to settle the Wet-Lease Agreement issue by year-end.

"At the 22nd US-EU Joint Committee Meeting held in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2019, delegations representing the United States, the European Union, Iceland, and Norway (the Parties) initialled the text of the standalone agreement on wet leasing," it said.

"The initialling allows the European Union to begin the internal process needed for final approval of the standalone agreement on wet leasing; a process that, according to the European Union delegation, would be completed within three to five months. Once that process is complete, the Parties can sign and begin provisionally applying the agreement. Based on the notable progress reached on this matter [..] as described above, the Department has decided to suspend the captioned proceeding until August 30, 2019."