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Airlines pleased with new open skies deal

Date Posted: 2010-01-28

The ink was barely dry on a new Japan-U.S. agreement to expand civil aviation markets under an open skies deal before Japanese and American airline officials were smiling.

The bilateral agreement gives both American and Japanese air carriers the option of applying for antitrust immunity as they have more freedom to decide the number of flights and the routes between the two countries. Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. were quick in announcing the new agreement will help their operations. “We will aim for providing better services for customers,” says JAL President Haruka Nishimatsu, “and we’ll manage air routes efficiently in establishing a strong network.” Shinichiro Ito, ANA’s president, says “we will take strategies that will improve convenience of users of our services, such as increasing flights to American cities and selecting a U.S. partner as early as possible.”

Delta Air Lines, which has been wooing Japan Air Lines to align itself with Delta in exchange for massive financial benefits, says “benefits for consumers, airline employees and investors” will be achieved by the new open skies agreement. The Delta official says he hoped it would allow Delta and JAL “to engage in deeper and more effective cooperation, producing greater benefits for the carriers and their customers.”

American Airlines, which is low linked with JAL through its Oneworld alliance, is pleased too. Senior Vice President Will Ris praised the deal, saying “this open skies agreement will effectively reset the playing field and enable new working relationships.” The agreement will take effect next October.

The open skies deal is expected to intensify competition between Delta, the world’s largest air carrier, and American Airlines, as they try to convince Japan Air Lines to become stronger partners with their airlines. JAL has been loosely linked with American and Oneworld the past few years.

Under the new open skies agreement, each country agreed to lower the share of airport slots held at Narita International Airport from 28% to 25% once the airport expands departure and arrival slots in March. In October, when Haneda Airport in Tokyo opens its new runway, Japan will grant U.S. and Japanese air carriers authorizations to operate a maximum of four round trips per day between Haneda and America during the midnight to early morning hours.

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