The new EU-US aviation pact to open airways

BRUSSELS, March 26, 2008 (AFP) – Air passengers flying between Europe and the United States should get more choice and cheaper tickets if all goes as officials plan under a new EU-US aviation pact taking effect on Sunday. After more than four years of often tense negotiations, hopes are high that the new so-called “open skies” agreement will usher in a new era of transatlantic travel thanks to the tougher competition.

The EU estimates that the accord could provide a major boost to transatlantic air traffic with more than 26 million extra passengers expected over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the deal is estimated to create benefits worth 12 billion euros (19 billion dollars) for consumers and create 80,000 new jobs in the European Union and the United States combined.

The pact is supposed to meet those high ambitions by replacing the patchwork of 21 bilateral aviation accords that so far existed between Washington and individual nations with a single EU-US accord.

Previously, six EU countries without such bilateral accords could not have direct flights to the United States.

Additionally, the open skies agreement will lift many of the restrictions that currently exist under those bilateral accord