UK and US to revise open skies deal

A deal is “close” as negotiators have reached consensus on the biggest issues

The United States and the United Kingdom appear to be coming close to an agreement to keep aircraft flying on key transatlantic routes even after Britain leaves the European Union.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, UK and US representatives are close to settling a new deal as they have reportedly reached a consensus on the biggest issues up for debate to settle the post-Brexit air transport conditions.

The UK and US might keep aircraft flying on key transatlantic routes – IanC66 / Shutterstock

“UK and US negotiators have agreed that major transatlantic airlines must be covered despite them being foreign owned – a break with the normal rules,” the newspaper said.

“That means flights from Virgin, Norwegian Air and British Airways owner IAG – all majority-owned outside of the UK and US – will continue after Brexit.”

The open skies deal, that was launched more than a decade ago, allows any airline from the European Union and the United States to fly between any point in the two areas.

The deal has helped to increase transatlantic traffic by 18 per cent between 2006 and 2016.

With Brexit approaching, a situation developed where US negotiators offered the British government only a basic bilateral agreement, similar to any agreements the country does with other states outside the EU.

British Airways couldn't fit a standard US deal because their major owners aren't based in their home country — Shutterstock UK and US to revise open skies deal
British Airways couldn’t fly under a standard US deal because their majority owners aren’t based in their home country — Shutterstock

Unlike the open skies deal, the standard US agreements require airlines to be majority owned and controlled by firms from their home country.

With neither British Airways nor Virgin Atlantic meeting these conditions, their transatlantic operations could be affected if the deal is not settled.

New rounds of negotiations are scheduled to take place next month and government officials, as well as industry representatives, have expressed confidence a deal will be reached.

“We could get a deal right now if we wanted to. We could sign on the dotted line,” a UK cabinet source told the Sunday Telegraph, adding Britain was mainly holding for extra concessions.