The first flights operating under the recently negotiated Open Skies treaty between the EEC and the United States landed in England this morning, including a Continental 777-200 from Newark, the first flight to land under the agreement.
Many observers are predicting that the agreement will result in a ton of new flights being offered by a lot of different carriers. But since the treaty was signed only one route has been announced, other than flights to London’s Heathrow. American carriers – including US Air, Continental and Northwest – along with British Airways and Air France have all announced additional service for Heathrow to the USA. In addition, BA has announced the launch of their new subsidiary, OpenSkies, to fly from Paris to New York. So this revolutionary new treaty has resulted in basically a flooding of one airport with new service. Yeah, Heathrow is the center of the travel universe, even more so than New York’s JFK or Tokyo’s Narita, but I still am waiting to see more benefits from this treaty other than more flights to London. And considering how much the US-based airlines are paying for the slots at Heathrow (CO reportedly paid $209MM for their 4 pairs), it is hard to believe that they can really drive profit from the slots; it’ll take a LOT of paid traffic in the pointy end of the plane to make up that much of an investment.
On the plus side, this should make things super-cheap for folks in London to fly over to the USA and take advantage of the incredibly weak dollar, though they still have to pay GBP40-80 in departure taxes (~$80-160) at a minimum, the flights are just not cheap no matter what.
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