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First Stage of EU-USA Open Skies in Effect

The first stage of the “Open Skies Agreement” between the European Union and the United States of America was signed on March 30 in a ceremony held within the scope of the “EU-USA Summit” in Washington. The European Union-United States air transport agreement is considered an important achievement in the liberalization of the transatlantic aviation market and is the result of negotiations held between both parties since 2003.

According to the European Union Commission, the agreement is expected to provide a 34 percent increase in transatlantic air traffic with 26 million extra passengers; it would also generate some 12 billion euros in economic benefits over the next five years and create a total of 80,000 new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

European Union Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said: “This marks the start of a new era in transatlantic aviation and this agreement allows for more competition and cheaper flights.”

The pact is expected to meet those high ambitions by replacing 21 bilateral aviation agreements between Washington and individual European nations with a single European Union-United States agreement. The new agreement would allow any European Union carrier to fly from anywhere in the bloc to any point in the United States and on to a third country, and vice versa, that was previously not possible. However, European airlines would still not be able to operate domestic United States routes, and neither would American carriers be allowed to fly between cities in the same European country.

The pact also aims to lift restrictions on which airlines can fly from which airport thus having an important impact on lucrative transatlantic routes from London’s busy Heathrow airport. Under Britain’s current bilateral aviation accord with the United States, only British Airways and Virgin Atlantic of Britain, and United States carriers United Airlines and American Airlines could fly routes from Heathrow to the United States. Other airlines can now seize the opportunity to fly new routes out of Heathrow.

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