Wednesday, March 26, 2008

open skies

open skies also open-skies adjective

relating to an agreement in which aircraft can fly between two countries without any restrictions

“From this month the European Union's open skies agreement comes into force, which means any European-based airline will be able to fly from any city within the EU to any city within the United States, and vice versa.”
The Independent 1st March 2008

“The newest open-skies agreement with Australia will provide more initial consumer benefits than the recent deal with Europe.”
Smarter Travel 28th February 2008

Heathrow Airport is the busiest international airport in the world. From March 27th 2008, its capacity is further increased, following the Queen's official opening of Terminal 5, a £4.3 billion state-of-the-art facility representing one of the UK’s biggest-ever building projects. The new terminal is a timely opportunity to exploit a recently-established agreement in relation to air traffic, an agreement described by the compound adjective open skies.

An open skies agreement (also regularly hyphenated as open-skies) is an agreement between two nations which basically permits unrestricted air travel between them. The term open skies, though existing for some time, came into mainstream recognition in March 2007, when a transatlantic open skies agreement was established between the European Union and the United States, permitting any American or European airline to operate services to and from any European or American location.

In force from March 30th 2008, the deal therefore eases restrictions on travel between Europe and the US, potentially offering many new routes and cheaper fares for transatlantic travellers. The agreement also permits US airlines to fly between two EU destinations, and allows EU airlines to travel between the United States and non-EU countries like Switzerland.

In response to the EU-US open skies agreement, British Airways has set up a namesake subsidiary OpenSkies, which will for the first time offer direct services between the US and mainland Europe. Flights from New York to Brussels and Paris are expected to start operating in June 2008.

The expression open skies dates back to the late seventies, when the United States began pursuing air service agreements with other countries. By 1982, it had signed twenty-three such agreements with smaller nations, and in 1992 a significant step was taken when, despite objections from the European Union, the Netherlands signed the first open skies agreement with the US.

Such agreements are often described as bilateral (involving two countries) or multilateral (involving three or more countries). An alternative term embracing the same concepts as open skies is the expression open aviation area.

An unfamiliar term which often crops up in the same context is the word cabotage. Although originally referring to the transportation of goods or people between two places within the same country (the word is based on French caboter, meaning ‘to sail along a coast’), cabotage is now often used to refer to a country’s exclusive right to control the air traffic within its borders.

Further reading
The Transatlantic price war
BBC News 21st February 2008

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