Open Skies

Wild blue yonder


Airline deregulation isn't very sexy, but trips to Paris are. Thanks to the former, the latter are about to become a lot easier and cheaper. Under the "Open Skies" agreement, which went into effect at the end of March, any airline—American or European—can now fly to any airport on either side of the Atlantic.

Previously, the takeoff and landing points for transatlantic flights were covered by a complex series of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and each of the destination countries in Europe. Now carriers will be able to choose the routes they think people will want to fly and make arrangements as they see fit. The hottest property so far is London's Heathrow Airport. Before the agreement went into effect, only United and American Airlines were allowed to fly there from the United States. Before the year is out, additional carriers will offer direct flights from Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas–Fort Worth, Raleigh-Durham, and Los Angeles.

"We don't even begin to get a glimmer of the possibilities of open-market competition yet," Jerry Chandler, who writes's travel blog, told the International Herald Tribune. "There could be a lot of flourishing of routes in markets that currently don't exist, especially from smaller U.S. cities to European hubs." Of course, the market for flights is far from unfettered in the United States, with restrictions on ownership, public dominion over airports, and the occasional bailout clouding the skies.

Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of the ultra-cheap Irish carrier Ryanair, has said flights from secondary European cities to secondary U.S. cities are in the cards, perhaps for as little as €10 (about $16). Plan your romantic vacation now: dirt cheap flights from Liverpool to Providence—at last!