Sunday, December 13, 2009

U.S., Japan have Open Skies agreement

U.S., Japan have Open Skies agreement

By Bernice Santiago • Pacific Daily News • December 14, 2009

The United States and Japan reached an Open Skies aviation agreement on Friday, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new agreement allows airlines from both countries to set routes and destinations without being limited by the number of carriers or flights that can operate between Japan and the U.S. The treaty also removes restrictions on capacity and pricing for those countries.

"Achieving Open Skies with Japan, a major U.S. transportation and trade partner, has been a long-standing U.S. goal and is good news for air travelers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary LaHood said in the release.

"Once this agreement takes effect, American and Japanese consumers, airlines and economies will enjoy the benefits of competitive pricing and more convenient service," LaHood said.

The United States currently has Open Skies treaties with more than 90 countries, according to AP News.

Continental Airlines and Continental Micronesia applauded the agreement, the carrier said in a release.

The recent agreement will allow the U.S. industry guaranteed access to Tokyo's Haneda airport, Continental states. The airport has been closed to U.S. carriers for more than 30 years. The carriers are confident that the treaty will allow them a fair opportunity to compete in major markets between the two countries, the release states.

Continental said the agreement would result in a broader choice of airline flights, itineraries and fares for U.S. airline customers and shippers.

"We deeply appreciate the leadership of Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Transportation LaHood in this process," said Continental Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Kellner.

"Both the U.S. and Japan negotiating teams deserve credit for achieving this break-through agreement, which will re-define air travel between the two countries for years to come," Kellner said.

The treaty allows for the possibility of far-reaching alliances among the U.S. and Japan's major airlines, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Such alliances would first depend on Japan's major airlines winning antitrust approval, before formalizing joint ventures with large U.S. carriers, the Wall Street Journal said.

Continental, which has recently become a member of the Star Alliance, provides service to Japan in conjunction with Star Alliance partners United Airlines and All Nippon Airways.

Continental is discussing increased cooperation with United and ANA on trans-Pacific routes. The cooperation would be facilitated by the Open Skies agreement, the Continental release stated.

ANA, Japan's No. 2 carrier, is likely to quickly seek antitrust approval for the proposed joint venture with United and Continental, the Wall Street Journal states. United Airlines also declared that it will seek antitrust immunity, according to AP News. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines and American Air Lines are vying for a partnership with Japan Airlines, the country's largest carrier, AP News states.

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