The Open Skies Agreement was signed in Washington D.C. on April 30, 2007 and became effective on March 30, 2008. For the first time, European airlines can fly without restrictions from any point in the European Union to any point in the United States and viceversa. Open Skies stimulates full competition and is expected to result in better choices and cheaper airfares. With about 50 million annual passengers between the EU and the US, the agreement covers by far the biggest international air transport market (60% of World air traffic) and opens the possibility of an additional 26 million extra passengers on transatlantic flights over a period of 5 years. Until March 2008 the market was governed by 21 bilateral agreements between individual member states and the United Sates.
The Open Skies Agreement represents the most significant change in transatlantic travel in decades. Vice-President of the European Commission in Charge of Transports Jacques Barrot said the deal signed in Washington D.C. is a «veritable revolution» and «marks the start of a new era in transatlantic aviation. This Agreement will bring more competition and cheaper flights to the US«.
Also, the agreement establishes closer cooperation between the EU and the US to tackle new challenges, such as security or the environment. This will facilitate the operations for airlines and airports and reduce the hassle for passengers.
This is the first step -negotations will continue this month- in the path to create a Transatlantic Open Aviation Area: a single EU-US air transport market with free flows of investment and no restrictions on air services, including access to the domestic markets of both parties.