US, UK formally sign new Open Skies accord

The agreement means Brexit will not disrupt transatlantic flying between the nations.

The US and the UK officially signed a new Open Skies agreement on Nov. 17, ensuring air transport between the nations continues seamlessly in a post-Brexit environment.

The accord will allow nonstop passenger flights operated by US and UK airlines from one country to another to continue unimpeded. US all-cargo carriers will also receive additional traffic rights on US-UK routes. Air traffic between the US and the UK had been covered under the US-European Union (EU) Open Skies regime, but the UK’s exit from the EU made a new agreement necessary.

US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed the agreement on behalf of the US. “This historic US-UK Open Skies Agreement builds upon the special relationship that exists between our nations,” Chao said. 

British transport minister Grant Shapps signed the agreement on behalf of the UK. Commenting on the pact, Shapps said: “Today I’ve signed a bilateral agreement with the US to ensure UK/US air services continue between our two nations beyond the EU transition period [after which the UK will not be covered by EU accords].

“Ordinarily millions of passengers a year use these services, contributing to our trading relationship with the US worth over £230 billion [$304 billion annually].” 

The terms of the agreement were reached on Nov. 28, 2018. The accord “will facilitate a seamless transition in international air transportation markets for the traveling public, airlines, shippers, and other stakeholders,” the US Department of Transportation (DOT) said in a statement.

"The agreement meets all the criteria of the US Open Skies policy and provides for additional traffic rights for US all-cargo operations to and from the United Kingdom. The agreement also includes the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, expanding and modernizing our air transport relationship with those regions.”

The agreement will become effective on Jan. 1, 2021 when the UK's post-Brexit transition period with the EU comes to an end.

Photo credit: Joe Pries

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