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Civil Air Transport Agreements

Since 1992 the United States has pursued an “Open Skies” policy designed to eliminate government intervention in airline decision-making about routes, capacity, and pricing in international markets.

The Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of Transportation and Commerce, negotiates agreements with foreign governments that provide the framework for commercial air service.  Since 1992, United States policy has been to seek, to the fullest extent possible, “Open Skies” air transport agreements, which eliminate government interference in commercial airline decisions about routes, capacity, and pricing, so that airlines can provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service to consumers, promoting increased travel and trade, and spurring high-quality job creation and economic growth.  Open Skies agreements expand cooperative marketing opportunities between airlines, liberalize charter regulations, improve flexibility for airline operations, and commit both governments to high standards of safety and security.  They are pro-consumer, pro-competition, and pro-growth, and facilitate countless new cultural links worldwide.  According to U.S. Airlines for Open Skies, an advocacy group, U.S. Open Skies policy has brought millions of new international visitors to the United States, supporting more than 15 million U.S. tourism and hospitality jobs.

America’s Open Skies policy has facilitated and accompanied U.S. airline globalization.  By allowing U.S. air carriers unrestricted market access to our partners’ markets as well as rights to fly to points in-between and beyond, Open Skies agreements provide maximum operational flexibility worldwide for U.S. airlines.  Many agreements also provide additional rights for all-cargo carriers to fly routes that do not connect to their home country, which have been critical to creating and facilitating global air cargo supply chains.

The United States has reciprocal Open Skies air transport agreements in place with over 130 partners.  Over 70 percent of international departures from the United States now fly to Open Skies partners.  According to the U.S. Travel Association, 75 million international visitors spend nearly $250 billion in the United States annually, benefiting American jobs across the aviation, travel, and tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants, attractions, retailers, and domestic air carriers.  The United States continues to seek new Open Skies partners, which will continue to drive down costs for travelers and promote people-to-people interactions, information sharing, and international business opportunities.  For more information on how to become an Open Skies partner, see our Model Open Skies Agreement text.

Facts & Figures

  • According to the U.S. Travel Association, average fares are 32 percent lower on routes subject to Open Skies policy, making travel more affordable for Americans exploring new destinations or connecting with loved ones abroad.  Around-the-world cargo operations, made possible by Open Skies, deliver essential medical supplies to families and critical parts to U.S. manufacturing businesses.
  • The Brookings Institution estimates that Open Skies agreements add over $4 billion in annual economic gains to travelers.
  • The business model for the international package delivery sector, employing over half a million people in the United States, depends on Open Skies to operate competitively in foreign markets.  U.S. air freight services to fast-growing regions like the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and Africa exceeded $1 billion in 2013 and contributed over $3 billion to the U.S. trade balance in the last five years.
  • Open Skies has dramatically expanded direct international connections to metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orlando, Portland, and Salt Lake City.
  • A private study found that new direct service between a U.S. city and a point in the European Union generates up to $720 million annually in new economic activity for the U.S. city and its local region, depending on the size of the markets.
  • Portland International Airport estimates that its direct international flights to Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt generate over $240 million in airport and visitor revenue.
  • The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority estimates that aviation liberalization with Brazil helped increase the number of visitors from Brazil to Orlando from 74,000 in 2004 to 768,000 in 2013.

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