A historic corner has been turned in transatlantic aviation, with the EU-US Open Skies agreement now operative and Continental landing its first ever New York to London flight at Heathrow this morning.
European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot claimed: "This marks the start of a new era in transatlantic aviation. This agreement will bring more competition and cheaper flights to the US."
Experts have tipped the new free market in transatlantic flights as a major challenge for British Airways (BA), with the airline currently drawing some 65 per cent of its profits from Heathrow-New York flights, a route it has so far shared with only three rival airlines.
BA could however take advantage of the new regulations itself and expand outside of its Heathrow base to provide transatlantic flights from other EU states, a trend already initiated by Air France’s new Heathrow-LA route.
The French flag carrier has moved into BA’s former Terminal 4 base, while its British counterpart struggles with baggage handling problems and flight cancellations at its new Terminal 5 home.