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Open Skies: I Say, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

March 27, 2008 | Posted in: Travel Tips

There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there over Open Skies — and I say, baloney!

Perhaps you saw this article on CNN.com (actually, it’s an Associated Press report); it quotes a lot of industry experts who contend that, when the Open Skies agreement kicks in March 30, there won’t be much in the way of lower airfares, or much of anything positive, unless you’re a business traveler.

Well, I have a different take…and, to quote one of my industry experts, much of Open Skies will make people “happy as clams!”

That’s what he said, alright. Keep reading…

The “clam” quote is courtesy of Ken Capps, an executive at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.

And I’m going to use DFW as an example to rebut some of the doom and gloom.

But first, a little background: as most of you know, Open Skies is the agreement between the U.S. and Europe that loosens restrictions on airlines concerning where they could and couldn’t fly. As the New York Times put it, Open Skies essentially lets “the open market dictate all trans-Atlantic routes between the United States and Europe.”

Now back to DFW’s Ken Capps; he isn’t alone in pointing out that Open Skies is a two-way street, er, air route. In other words, it’s not all about U.S. passengers; don’t forget that it will also make it easier for folks from Europe to come to the U.S. (and thanks to hubs like Heathrow and Amsterdam, this includes people from Africa, the Mid-East and more).

And these travelers and their airlines will spend money: officials in Texas expect their new Open Skies flights and operations at DFW to bring in about $125 million a year to the greater Dallas area alone. As Capps so eloquently put it, “that’s true even if you don’t get off the couch and get on a flight — the money’ll still come in!”

As for the CNN report that there won’t be many lower airfares because the airlines will be concentrating on higher revenue business class passengers, well, there will be economy seats, and there will be that little thing called competition.

Example: DFW will now have 3 daily non-stops to Heathrow (2 for American Airlines, one with British Airways) and KLM will have a flight departing for and arriving from Amersterdam each day.

Before Open Skies, DFW had no such flights. Again, as the feisty Mr. Capps put it, “you can be rest assured those guys will be battling it out” for the passengers; and of course, we all know the best way to win over passengers is through the cheapest airfare possible.

To wrap this up, I present my “Six Reasons Why Open Skies Makes Me Happy”:

  1. Competition: In my 6 years of tracking airfares, I’ve never once seen domestic or international routes open up with NO fare reductions between and around those cities. It’ll happen.
  2. “Cheap Carrier” Competition: Low cost airlines like Zoom have already jumped in (saw a recent Zoom billboard in San Diego Airport, for a non-stop from San Diego to London for $498). Imagine what Ryanair could do.
  3. Business Class Competition: Maxjet wouldn’t have gone bankrupt if business class was all people wanted; there are still plenty of economy passengers as Delta well knows (which is why the carrier is putting more of its planes into international routes).
  4. International Growth: Regardless of how painful our government makes it for international travelers to come to the U.S., come they do, and rest assured airline execs know this and will be sitting in their “war rooms” figuring out how to grab their share, which will mean more competition and…lower prices.
  5. Australian Open Skies: The down-under version will create its own competition and bring more of these folks to the U.S. (and how can anyone NOT smile at an Aussie accent?).
  6. Big Planes: Heck, if Boeing ever makes its deliveries, maybe we’ll actually get to see one of these giant planes, and maybe a huge Airbus A380 as well!

    So, sorry CNN — but when it comes to Open Skies, I’m going to “be happy.”

One Response to “Open Skies: I Say, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy””

  1. Suzanne says:

    Our family of four is getting ready to buy roundtrip tickets from Boston to Paris for our 2-week July vacation. Do you think it makes sense to buy the tickets now, or to wait (and if so, for how long) to see whether Open Skies will significantly decrease fares? We’re eagerly awaiting your opinion!

    Many thanks.

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