2017 is an important year in international civil aviation as we celebrate two milestones: the 25th anniversary of U.S. Open Skies policy and the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-European Union (EU) Open Skies Agreement. On July 10, the U.S. Department of State, in coordination with the European Commission, held an event to recognize these important milestones, highlighting the clear benefits brought by Open Skies over the past 25 years. Our Open Skies anniversaries event brought together industry, government, and other civil aviation experts to highlight the benefits and importance of Open Skies for the United States, Europe, and the international civil aviation sector.
U.S. Open Skies policy has provided great benefits for travelers, airlines as well as their employees, traders, airplane manufacturers, and the broader economy. It has set the standard for greater liberalization of the international civil aviation sector. Since the launch of the Open Skies policy by the George H.W. Bush Administration in 1992, the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce, has implemented the policy through negotiating reciprocal Open Skies agreements with countries worldwide.
Open Skies agreements establish reciprocal, market-based ground rules designed to facilitate growth of a deregulated international aviation system, with enhanced potential for increasing travel and commerce. Open Skies removes limits on the number of airlines permitted to provide service and on frequencies. This promotes competition and allows carriers – passenger, all-cargo, and combination services – to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service to travelers and business.
According to a 2015 Brookings Institution study, U.S. Open Skies agreements have generated at least $4 billion in annual gains to travelers, including approximately a 15 percent reduction in fares.
A 2015 study by the consulting company InterVISTAS concluded that air service liberalization leads to a 16 percent increase in air traffic, which in turn supports approximately nine million additional jobs in aviation and aviation-related industries.
The United States signed its first Open Skies agreement in 1992, with The Netherlands. Over the past 25 years, the United States has concluded Open Skies Agreements with over 120 partners in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Our partners include countries at all levels of economic development.
In 2007, the United States and the EU signed the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement, one of the most important air transport agreements in the world. It allows U.S. and European carriers to fly without restrictions between any American city and any city in the EU, Norway, and Iceland. The Agreement has increased services in the transatlantic market that were previously subject to significant restrictions on operations arising from the pre-existing bilateral agreements.
The U.S.-EU Agreement has paved the way for closer alliance agreements among airlines on both sides of the Atlantic, facilitating greater connectivity. The strategic alliances, codeshares, and other commercial arrangements that U.S. and EU carriers have entered allow them to better respond to market demands and provide greater flexibility and choice for travelers and businesses. An efficient and vibrant transatlantic aviation market supports broader economic growth and prosperity here at home.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. and EU trade about $3 billion in goods and services every single day. We have invested more than $4 trillion in each other’s economies. U.S. Department of Commerce data indicate that some 12 million U.S. citizens traveled to Europe in 2016, the largest overseas destination for U.S. travel behind Mexico and Canada. Much of this trade and travel is made possible by Open Skies agreements. Going forward, we will continue working hard to promote American prosperity through our reciprocal Open Skies agreements that connect Americans to economies around the world.
About the Author: Thomas Engle serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
For more information:
- Learn more about Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the U.S. Open Skies Policy and 10th Anniversary of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement.
- Read additional DipNote entries on Economic Affairs and International Travel.