State of the Skies

With "open skies" right around the corner, Air France has begun selling seats on its nonstop flights between Los Angeles and London Heathrow, which begin March 30. Here's a sampling of other routes that open skies will bring us in 2008. U.S. airlines were quick to jump at the opportunity to fly in and out of Heathrow, a major gateway to European cities both large and small, as the open-skies agreement calls for such airlines as British Airways and American Airlines to loosen their grips on their protected positions at the airport.

Continental was one of the first to file for permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly between Houston and Heathrow. As it expands into Heathrow, Continental said it would retain its existing services to London Gatwick from its hubs at Houston, Newark and Cleveland. "Our customers have always wanted more options for accessing London, and the open-skies agreement will allow us to give our customers the convenience of choosing between Heathrow and Gatwick for their London travel plans," Continental CEO Larry Kellner said in a statement earlier this year.

Delta is anxious to serve Heathrow from Atlanta. "A key focus for Delta has been to obtain meaningful access to London's Heathrow International Airport," said Jerry Grinstein, Delta's CEO. "We welcome an agreement more broadly in European markets, particularly London's Heathrow airport."

Northwest has launched an aggressive European expansion plan that includes service to Brussels and Dusseldorf, as well as flights to Amsterdam from Detroit and Boston, thanks to a joint venture with alliance partner KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. (In news separate from open skies, Air France-KLM, parent company of the two airlines, secured approval of its bid to takeover ailing Italian carrier Alitalia.)

Meanwhile, American is taking advantage of its prime real estate at Heathrow, moving two of its existing flights to London Gatwick from Dallas/Fort Worth and Raleigh/Durham to Heathrow in March.

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