The EU and US signed an “open skies” agreement earlier this week.
The primary purpose of the agreement is to relax landing right restrictions and open internal flights to international competition, but I hear anecdotally that there will be an added benefit.
Currently, in the US, federal workers and academic taking international flights paid for by federal grants must fly out of the US on a US flag carrier.
They also should take US carriers as far as possible to their final destination.
This can make it interestingly tricky to find reasonably priced international flights on some routes.
It is partly circumvented by “dual coded” flights, where a US airline will assign a route number to a flight that is actually on a foreign “partner” airline, but that only gets you so far.
IF I understand the deal correctly, and this is from anecdotal reports, then the new Open Skies deal, due to go into effect in March 2008, will relax this restriction and permit US gov funded travellers to travel on European airlines.
That would be really nice, and may help inspire some of the US airlines to improve fares, flights and service on some routes.