US-UK open skies sets stage for transatlantic routes post-Brexit

The once lucrative UK-US airline network has been muted by COVID-19.

The new UK-US bilateral open skies agreement has been officially ratified, forming the basis for all air transport routes between the two countries following the UK’s exit and transition from the EU.

On March 26, the US Transportation Department (DOT) said “an exchange of diplomatic notes” has now been completed, bringing the new US-UK air transport agreement into force. The agreement was concluded on Nov. 28, 2018, to safeguard transatlantic flights post-Brexit and allow for the development of new air services. It was signed by the US and UK in November 2020 and began to apply “on the basis of comity and reciprocity” from Jan. 1, 2021.

“The entry into force of the agreement cements it as the sole basis of US-UK air transport relations,” the US DOT said. “The agreement meets all the criteria of the US open-skies policy and provides for new, 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.”

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In November 2018, the UK government valued the trading relationship with the US at around £50 billion.

Travel between the U.S. and UK—normally a highly lucrative market for airlines—has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo credit: Joe Pries