Issues Still Remain, To Be Ironed Out Next Year
Fulfilling agreements made earlier this year between the United
States and the European Union, on Monday the two sides signed a
landmark "open skies" agreement significantly easing restrictions
on transatlantic flights.
"With this agreement, the honeymoon in Paris, the business trip
to Dublin, and family reunion in Naples will be cheaper, easier,
and within the reach of more Americans than ever before," said US
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. "Also, better access to
American destinations means European visitors will bring new
business to our local communities."
Reuters reports the new agreement -- which supplants many
restrictions in place since the post-WWII era -- allows airlines on
both sides of the pond unprecedented access to new routes
connecting any city in the US with a city within the 27-nation EU
As Aero-News has reported,
most of the attention since the initial, tentative pact was
announced in March has focused on opening new routes for US
carriers to London's Heathrow Airport -- which is already near
capacity. As part of the deal formalized Monday, officials in the
UK won a six-month delay in allowing US airlines to compete fully
for slots at Heathrow.
The deal has been criticized as lopsided by some European
airline officials -- because in its first phase, it allows US
airlines to fly between cities in Europe -- but won't offer
Europe's airlines the same opportunity in the US.
Proponents of the deal respond European carriers may actually
reap most of the benefits under Open Skies, at least to start.
Several carriers within the EU -- including Virgin Atlantic, Aer
Lingus, and low-cost carrier Ryanair -- have announced plans to
pursue new routes to the US. Others -- such as Air France-KLM,
Lufthansa and British Airways are mulling over their plans.
"Already, the European airline industry is feeling its effects
in a positive way, with plans for new services and signs of a much
more flexible and dynamic approach to airline investment among
European carriers," said Jacques Barrot, vice president of the
Additional benefits for US carriers may have to wait until a
second stage of talks begin in mid-2008, when negotiators will meet
once again to discuss topics that failed to win agreement the first
time around -- including a loosening of restrictions on foreign
ownership of US carriers.