Monday, December 14, 2009


So, Japan and the United States have finally agreed to agree on an open-skies pact after a decade of on-again, off-again negotiations. If antitrust regulators are satisfied with the deal, it will go into effect next year, opening up landing slots at major airports on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, and offer more choices for consumers.

The often-delayed agreement came about in spite of the strenuous objections of, most notably, Delta Air Lines, which inherited a number of lucrative landing slots at Tokyo's Narita International Airport when it swallowed Northwest Airlines. With United Airlines as the only other major U.S. carrier bidding for trans-Pacific trade with Delta and the big Japanese carriers Air Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, Delta wanted to keep American Airlines and other potential U.S. rivals out of the market. The open-skies pact will let them in.

As is so often the case in the corporate world, executives in the airline industry sing paeans to the joys of competition and the glory of the free market. Then, they get some actual competition, and when that happens, they change their tune. In this case, what is bad for airlines that fear open competition is good for travelers. More flights, more carriers and hopefully lower fares should come about thanks to the coming open-skies deal, with its liberalized rules

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