European Union transport ministers have signed a second Open Skies deal with the United States at a meeting in Luxemburg.
The move is designed to reduce barriers to foreign ownership of European and American airlines. At present European carriers can only own 25 per cent of US airlines, while US carriers can take 49.9 per cent stakes in their European competitors.
Pictured: US assistant transportation secretary for aviation Susan Kurland, US ambassador to Luxembourg Cynthia Stroum, Spanish public works minister José Blanco & European Commission transport commissioner Siim Kallas.
Under the terms of Open Skies these limits will be raised, but new levels are yet to be set.
“This is a significant step forward in our mutually beneficial aviation relationship with the US,” said vice president of Luxembourg Siim Kallas.
“It is extremely good news for passengers, cargo shippers, airports and airlines who will all benefit from the additional commercial opportunities and strengthened regulatory framework provided by this agreement.”
It is hope the deal will boost the European economy by approximately €12 billion, while also creating up to 80,000 new jobs.
The latest agreement also includes plans for closer cooperation on environmental matters, including carbon trading schemes.
“This agreement will help the European aviation industry emerge from the recent period of challenges,” added Mr Kallas.
The original Open Skies agreement was signed in 2007, coming into force in 2008. Under the terms of the treaty any airline was allowed to operate flights between the EU and the US.
Previously, certain routes - including flights between Heathrow and the US - had been limited to specific carriers.
Second-stage negotiations began in May 2008 with a view toward further regulatory cooperation and additional market opportunities.