Open Skies Agreements: Understanding the Basics

Open Skies agreements are international treaties that govern the aviation industry and allow airlines to operate between two countries without any restrictions on routes, capacity, or pricing. They are designed to promote competition and growth in the airline industry by removing barriers to entry and enabling new airlines to enter the market.

The concept of open skies agreements emerged in the 1980s, when airlines in the United States were deregulated, and the government opened up the domestic airline industry to competition. As a result, airlines began to look overseas for new markets, and the U.S. government began negotiating bilateral aviation agreements with other countries.

The first open skies agreement was signed between the United States and the Netherlands in 1992. Since then, more than 130 open skies agreements have been signed, with countries around the world.

Key Features of Open Skies Agreements

While each open skies agreement is unique, they generally include a number of key features:

– No restrictions on routes, capacity, or pricing: Open skies agreements remove restrictions on airlines, allowing them to fly between two countries without any limitations on the routes they can take, the number of flights they can offer, or the prices they can charge.

– Fair competition: Open skies agreements promote fair competition by prohibiting government subsidies and ensuring that airlines are able to compete on a level playing field.

– Safety and security: Open skies agreements include provisions for safety and security, ensuring that airlines meet certain standards and comply with regulations related to safety and security.

– Cooperation on air traffic control: Open skies agreements promote cooperation between countries on air traffic control, making air travel more efficient and safer.

Benefits of Open Skies Agreements

Open skies agreements offer a number of benefits for both airlines and consumers:

– Increased competition: Open skies agreements promote competition, which can lead to lower prices for consumers and better service from airlines.

– More choices for consumers: Open skies agreements allow airlines to offer new routes and destinations, giving consumers more choices when it comes to travel.

– Economic growth: Open skies agreements can stimulate economic growth by increasing tourism, creating jobs, and boosting trade between countries.

– Innovation and technological advances: Open skies agreements encourage innovation and technological advances in the airline industry, as airlines compete to offer new and improved services to consumers.

Challenges of Open Skies Agreements

While open skies agreements offer many benefits, they also present some challenges:

– Capacity issues: When airlines are free to operate between two countries without any restrictions on capacity, it can lead to overcrowding at airports and on planes.

– Concerns about safety and security: Some critics of open skies agreements argue that they undermine safety and security by allowing airlines from countries with less stringent regulations to operate in other countries.

– Job losses: Open skies agreements can result in job losses for workers in the airline industry, particularly if new airlines enter the market and compete with existing airlines.


Open skies agreements have transformed the airline industry by providing airlines with more flexibility and encouraging competition. While they present some challenges, the benefits of open skies agreements are clear: more choices for consumers, economic growth, and innovation in the airline industry. As the world becomes increasingly connected, open skies agreements are likely to play an increasingly important role in the aviation industry.