About The Issue
What Are Open Skies Agreements?
They are agreements between the United States and other countries that create open, competitive markets for international air travel. They enable airlines, not governments, to make decisions about routes, capacity, frequency, and pricing of their services, based on market demand. Open Skies agreements promote competition in the aviation sector, increase choice, and reduce costs for consumers while also facilitating exports for U.S. businesses and enhancing U.S. national security. Since 1992 the United States has entered into more than 100 Open Skies agreements with countries ranging from Germany and Singapore to Chile and Uganda. For a full list of the United States’ Open Skies agreements, click here.
Why Are They Important?
More than 100 U.S. Open Skies agreements have brought millions of new international visitors to the United States, supporting more than 15 million U.S. tourism and hospitality jobs. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 75 million international visitors spent nearly $250 billion in the United States in 2016 alone, benefiting a wide array of travel-related businesses such as hotels, rental car companies, restaurants, and retailers. In fact, adding one daily wide-body flight carrying predominantly foreign-originating tourists can result in $65 million in direct spending, $117 million in U.S. GDP growth, and more than 1,150 U.S. jobs.
Open Skies agreements save passengers $4 billion on U.S.-international routes annually and have created more choices by expanding domestic airline routes. Furthermore, the United States’ network of Open Skies agreements has bolstered U.S. national security by enabling carriers to transport U.S. military equipment and troops to and from hot zones.
Why Do They Need To Be Protected?
Congress is deliberating two bills – The Fair and Open Skies Act (H.R. 3095) and H.R. 4550 the FY 2022 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act – that would potentially violate the longstanding U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement. The legislation would invite retaliation against U.S. commercial and cargo carriers by U.S. international Open Skies partners, with consumers and U.S. businesses shouldering the greatest consequences.
H.R. 3095: The misleadingly named Fair and Open Skies Act would violate the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement and could invite many forms of retaliation from the European Union (EU), such as Member State limitations of airline services, forceful measures taken from the European Commission (EC), and bureaucratic procedures bringing challenges to U.S. labor laws.
H.R. 4550: Congressional approval of the FY22 House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act, which includes amendment language similar to – but separate from – the similarly misguided Fair and Open Skies Act, would also constitute a violation of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement. Open Skies and U.S. leadership in global aviation are job creators, and the competitive marketplace created by these agreements is good for consumers.
H.R. 3095, the “Fair and Open Skies Act”
There is nothing fair or open about the “The Fair and Open Skies Act [H.R. 3095].” If enacted, the bill would violate the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement and invite retaliation on the U.S. commercial and cargo aviation industries by our international Open Skies partners, with consumers and U.S. businesses shouldering the greatest consequences. At its core, this effort is harmful to our economy and anticompetitive. H.R. 3095 will only drive up prices for the flying public, and harm the cargo air and logistics networks that provide just-in-time shipments to individual consumers and that are pivotal to businesses of all sizes nationwide.
Adding conditions to a trade agreement – Open Skies – is likely to ignite the unraveling of a long-established and trusted aviation alliance with the E.U. – one of the nation’s most strategic, and strongest international aviation partners.
- H.R. 3095 threatens the Open Skies framework that has benefited consumers, aviation professionals, and our economy for more than a quarter-century. Moreover, this issue was never contemplated in, nor allowed by the original Open Skies agreements.
- Retaliation by the EU would threaten American jobs supported by U.S. carriers’ transatlantic routes, as well as the potential for economic growth at both primary U.S. hubs for international aviation as well as secondary U.S. airports that are potential targets for expanded international service development.
- Retaliation could be exacted against passenger and cargo services alike, whether the operations are scheduled or charter.
- Countervailing measures taken by aggrieved aviation partners are generally “proportional” rather than “mirror image” meaning that the scope of EU retaliation could be broad.
- U.S. airlines seeking entry to the EU market, established airlines modifying their existing services, and even established airlines with no planned network changes could be targeted.
In July 2019, EU DG MOVE Henrick Hololei stated in a speech to the International Aviation Club in Washington, DC, “I sincerely hope that all parties honour and value our [Air Transport] Agreement and if need be we will use all legal means to defend ATA.” This was not the first warning from Hololei.
- The so-called “Fair and Open Skies Act” would violate U.S. treaty obligations at the expense of U.S. airlines both passenger and cargo, U.S. jobs, U.S. consumers, and the global commercial aviation industry generally.
- U.S. carriers depend on the freedoms in Open Skies agreements to serve foreign markets, support global supply chains and extend their global reach.
- Open Skies generate $4 billion in annual economic gains to consumers.
- Full liberalization of global commercial aviation would support 9 million jobs in aviation and related industries.
- Consumers benefit from Open Skies agreements and air services provided in a competitive marketplace.
In 2018, the DC Circuit found these agreements “promote competition” and that “a service authorized by a bilateral agreement is in the public interest.”
- These gains would all be threatened by the passage of this provision, a primary reason why administrations led by both parties have opposed similar provisions and rejected “flag of convenience” claims by the pilots’ union in the past.
Open Skies & the Response to COVID-19
Open Skies agreements are playing a critical role in America’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Without these agreements already in place, airlines – particularly all-cargo carriers – would not have the flexibility that they need to move critical medicine, supplies, and consumer goods around the world to where they are most needed.
- Pharmaceuticals– to this point in the crisis, Americans have not experienced COVID-19-related shortages of necessary drugs, from fever-reducing drugs like acetaminophen to drugs like insulin that many Americans depend on each day. Open Skies agreements allow cargo carriers to quickly ship these vital drugs from their country of manufacture to the United States without delay.
- Medical Supplies – from the beginning of the crisis, Open Skies agreements have allowed all-cargo carriers to shift capacity to where it is most needed without renegotiating overflight and landing rights in each instance. As COVID-19 moves across the globe, cargo airlines are able to meet changing demand on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, cargo carriers are partnering with health care companies to expedite shipments of necessary supplies to designated testing facilities increase COVID-19 detection capacity.
- Household Delivery of Critical Supplies & Household Goods – as Americans are practicing social distancing and avoiding trips to public places like grocery stores, the ability to deliver supplies and household goods directly to doorsteps is playing a critical role in minimizing personal contacts. The global logistics network that enables the fast, efficient, and inexpensive delivery of goods to Americans’ homes is built on Open Skies agreements.
International air cargo, whose networks are predicated on America’s 130 Open Skies agreements, is one of the fastest and safest means of moving important goods around the globe while minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. As this crisis evolves, Open Skies agreements are essential to the ability of governments, health care providers, and everyday citizens to respond to changing conditions throughout the country.
Just The Facts
Economic Benefits Of Open Skies Agreements
National Security Benefits Of Open Skies Agreements
Open Skies allows U.S. airlines to maintain global delivery networks to transport troops and vital supplies for the U.S. military. Since 1991, commercial carriers have transported almost 40% of the equipment, supplies, and food to support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf and more than 90% of U.S. forces to and from Iraq.
U.S. Airline Benefits Of Open Skies Agreement
- Under U.S. open skies agreements U.S. carriers have been able to establish new routes:
- JetBlue Airways now provides service under Open Skies agreements with Colombia and Jamaica
- JetBlue Airways also was able to initiate service between Boston and Detroit, a route that was previously served by only one carrier, due to the number of international passengers arriving in Boston thanks to Open Skies.
USAOS Statement in Opposition to “Fair and Open Skies Act”
U.S. Airlines for Open Skies released the following statement in opposition to the “Fair and Open Skies Act of 2019” today: [...]
USAOS Reacts to Introduction of Fair and Open Skies Act
U.S. Airlines for Open Skies released the following statement in reaction to the introduction of the “Fair and Open Skies [...]
USAOS Congratulates U.S.-UAE on Affirmation of Open Skies Agreement
U.S. Airlines for Open Skies issued this statement following the release of the joint U.S.-UAE statement on the sixth US-U.A.E. [...]
Blog – Giving Passengers the (Fifth) Freedom to Fly
If you’ve been paying attention to the subject of Open Skies, you’ve probably heard the term “fifth freedom” thrown around [...]
FedEx, JetBlue, and Atlas Air Release Letter Setting Record Straight on Open Skies
Fred Smith, Chairman and CEO of FedEx, Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, and Bill Flynn, President and CEO of Atlas [...]
USAOS Letter To Ambassador Lighthizer
May 15, 2017 Ambassador Robert Lighthizer United States Trade Representative Office of the U.S. Trade Representative 600 17th Street, NW [...]
USAOS Aviation Subcommittee Hearing Comments
March 14, 2017 The Honorable Frank Lobiondo, Chairman The Honorable Rick Larsen, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Aviation Committee on Transportation [...]
USAOS Letter To Secretary Ross
February 28, 2017 The Honorable Wilbur Ross Secretary of Commerce U.S. Department of Commerce 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230 download PDF [...]
Who We Are
U.S. Airlines for Open Skies (USAOS) is a coalition of four U.S. passenger and cargo carriers – Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx, JetBlue Airways, and Cargo Airline Association – in support of the United States’ Open Skies agreements, which promote U.S. jobs and economic growth. Collectively, USAOS members transport approximately 54 million passengers annually, ship nearly 8 million tons of cargo, and employ approximately 1,345,000 people.