23 March 2007

EU-US Air Transport Agreement given conditional approval by European Transport Ministers

Reports are coming through (see stories from the BBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) that the draft European Union-United States Air Transport Agreement has received the necessary unanimous approval from European Transport Ministers meeting in Brussels. The approval is, however, conditional.

As signaled, implementation would be delayed by five months until March 2008 when British Airways moves into Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. In addition elements of the new agreement could be suspended by individual EU member states if the United States does not agree to an exchange of eight and ninth freedom traffic rights within two years. The US Congressional reaction to the latter will be interesting.

The US Secretary for Transportation, Mary Peters, has already issued a short statement welcoming the deal.

In a bilateral air services agreement signed on 26 July 2005 the United Kingdom exchanged eight and ninth freedom traffic rights with New Zealand. Air New Zealand was fortunate to be able to double the number of London Heathrow slots it holds when it did.

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