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Airlines from both countries will have the same level of access as they do under the EU-US open-skies agreement, says the UK transport secretary Chris Grayling. He calls the accord, which is one of nine the country has reached with countries around the world, an example of the UK and USA’s “special relationship”.
“It’s critical that Britain maintains full access to international aviation markets so it can continue to develop its global trading links,” says Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways parent International Airlines Group, in a statement. “This agreement is a significant positive development which we welcome.”
Some feared that if the UK leaves the EU with no agreement, a so-called “hard Brexit”, in March 2019, air service between the UK and USA could revert to the countries’ previous bilateral agreement. Such a step back could have resulted in one US airline being booted from London Heathrow, which was limited to just two UK and two US carriers.
American Airlines and United Airlines were the two US carriers with rights to serve Heathrow prior to the EU-US open-skies agreement in 2008. Delta Air Lines moved its operations to the airport following the accord.
“Today’s announcement provides much needed certainty that when the UK exits the European Union there will be no disruption to air service for the travelling and shipping public,” says Nicholas Calio, president and chief executive of US industry body Airlines for America (A4A), adding that he applauds the agreement.
BA carried 36.3% of traffic between the UK and USA in 2017, data shows. Combined with its joint venture partner American, the airlines carried more than 52% of passengers in the market. Virgin Atlantic and partner Delta carried 25.4% of traffic, and United 11.3%.
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