Monday, December 14, 2009
After experiencing a negotiating setback last week, the United States and Japan managed to finalize an open skies treaty to replace the restrictive agreement the two parties had originally made in 1952. See Press Release, Dept. of Transp., U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces U.S.-Japan Agreement on Open Skies, DOT 196-09 (Dec. 11, 2009).
"Achieving Open Skies with Japan, a major U.S. transportation and trade partner, has been a long-standing U.S. goal and is good news for air travelers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific," said Secretary LaHood. "Once this agreement takes effect, American and Japanese consumers, airlines and economies will enjoy the benefits of competitive pricing and more convenient service."
Under the new agreement, airlines from both countries would be allowed to select routes and destinations based on consumer demand for both passenger and cargo services, without limitations on the number of U.S. or Japanese carriers that can fly between the two countries or the number of flights they can operate. It would remove restrictions on capacity and pricing, and provide unlimited opportunities for cooperative marketing arrangements, including code-sharing, between U.S. and Japanese carriers.
The agreement also would provide opportunities for growth of U.S. carrier operations at Tokyo’s Narita Airport and ensure fair competition regarding the new opportunities at Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport.
The agreement also paves the way for Japanese airlines JAL and ANA to apply for approval and antitrust immunity to deepen their alliance relationships with U.S. carriers. As it stands, ANA is a member of the Star Alliance while JAL remains in oneworld, though it is currently being courted by SkyTeam. The open skies treaty may not mean immunization, however. While it has been longstanding DOT practice to require an open skies agreement before granting immunity to international intercarrier agreements, the Justice Department's recent series of objections to Star's and oneworld's applications have placed a cloud of uncertainity over such authorizations.