US and UK reach post-Brexit ‘Open Skies’ deal on air services

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Britain and the US have agreed to an Open Skies aviation agreement to govern air travel between the countries. The deal is aimed at allaying fears that flights could be grounded in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

The United States and the United Kingdom have reached an Open Skies agreement that would govern air travel after Britain exits the European Union, the British government said on Wednesday.

Flying rights to, from, and within the EU are currently covered by EU-wide agreements that would no longer apply after any no-deal Brexit.

The US-UK agreement “will guarantee the continuation of the vital transatlantic routes used by tens of millions of passengers a year, ensuring people can continue to travel easily between the UK and US and maintaining choice and good value travel,” the UK government said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last month warned that planning for a disorderly Brexit needed to move more quickly to avoid “chaos” as far as aviation is concerned. Otherwise, safety and regulatory frameworks could see flights grounded after March 29, 2019 — the date that Britain leaves the EU.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping a deal agreed with EU leaders on Sunday will be approved by the British parliament in a vote on December 11.

The terms of the deal are inferior to the rights that the UK currently enjoys as an EU member, with tougher ownership restrictions, tougher rules for new entrants and no special access to a program covering ticket sales to US government employees.

The main concern is that to operate under post-Brexit bilateral rules, airlines would be required to have substantial US or British ownership. The deal addresses potential problems for UK airlines that have with significant European Union ownership, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Air.

Britain is also in advanced talks for a bilateral air services arrangement with Canada. It has already reached air services agreements with Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco and Switzerland.

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