It has been a year since the Open Skies aviation pact was implemented, ending limits on flights between the U.S. and European Union nations and opening slots for more air carriers at Heathrow Airport in London.
Beginning this week, British Airways travelers flying from Atlanta to London will land at Heathrow Airport instead of Gatwick. The move to Heathrow, where passengers can more easily make connecting flights to other European destinations, was made possible by the Open Skies agreement. The year-old pact has also encouraged domestic carriers, like Atlanta’s Delta Airlines, to partner with European carriers to offer lower passenger fares and better flight schedules, even in these troubled economic times.
For airlines, the benefits of the agreement seem clear.
“It’s resulted in better fares and better frequencies and better scheduling and better product,” said Paris-based Delta official David Bishko in this AJC article from Sunday.
Later in the article, New York aviation consultant Robert Mann said, “There’s no question that Open Skies has benefited consumers via new market entry, and the antitrust-immune partnerships have inaugurated nonstop services that no single carrier would risk.”
However, as fares to Europe began dropping because of Open Skies, fuel prices and a worsening economy began forcing airlines to cut back on routes and ground more airplanes. Major airlines continue to cut international flights, and Delta expects its trans-Atlantic traffic by year’s end to be down by more than ten percent over the airline’s December 2008 capacity.
I wanted to ask our Atlanta travelers – especially those who fly to Europe – if you have noticed a real difference in travel costs or flexibility in the year since trans-Atlantic flights became more open? Have you been wooed by the prospect of cheaper fares only to get frustrated by flight cutbacks? If you have traveled overseas, did additional slots at Heathrow make it easier for you to connect to your ultimate destination? Do you think the Open Skies changes have been helpful to the traveler and/or the air travel industry? Have you changed the way you travel as a result?