Starting today, airline travel from the U.S. to Europe is going to get easier. The Open-Skies agreement, which was signed last April, will allow any airline in the European Union to fly into any airport in the U.S., and all U.S. airlines to fly into any EU airport. In a nutshell, this means that passengers will no longer get stuck in a 12-hour layover in London just to continue on to Dublin.
Currently, trans-Atlantic flights are governed by many agreements between the U.S. and each individual country, and required airlines to both take off and land in their native countries. For example, a British Airlines flight going to the U.S. had to leave from the U.K., and American Airlines and United Airlines were the only air carriers allowed to service Heathrow, which often serves as a mid-point for travel to Asia and Africa. After the 30th, Northwest, Continental, and Delta Airlines will also be able to service the U.K. from airports like Dallas-Fort Worth, which, until now, never had nonstop service to Heathrow.
Airlines in the U.S. and EU are jumping at new possibilities, from creating new routes, to increasing the number of daily flights. The New York Times explains:
British Airways is planning a subsidiary called OpenSkies that will skip London altogether, beginning with Brussels-New York and Paris-New York service as early as June. And some airlines, anticipating increased competition, are expanding their trans-Atlantic networks. Delta will begin flying from Kennedy Airport to Paris Orly on June 2, cutting out a three-hour-plus layover in Madrid, Nice, or elsewhere.
KLM will start a daily flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and Amsterdam on March 30. Previously, Dallas passengers had to change planes in Memphis, New York, or another city before arriving in Amsterdam. The new flight will cut at least two hours off the total flight time.
...Routes to watch include Denver-Heathrow and Seattle-Heathrow, which were previously served by only one nonstop carrier: British Airways. But thanks to the open skies agreement, United will begin flying between Denver and Heathrow on March 30, with introductory fares starting at $570 round trip for travel before May 15. British Airways, by contrast, has been offering that same route for $1,461, according to an online search.
Luckily for travelers, while fuel surcharges are at an all-time high, this increase in trans-Atlantic competition should reduce fares as well. A recent study showed that an open-skies agreement would generate a 10 percent increase in passenger traffic, thus reducing fares by 4-10 percent, according to the NYT.
Photo: Laurent Malbecq via Flickr