Open Skies Partnerships: Expanding the Benefits of Freer Commercial Aviation

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Public Affairs
September 16, 2016


“Over two decades, these [Open Skies] agreements have vastly expanded passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoted increased travel and trade, enhanced productivity, and spurred high-quality job opportunities and economic growth for both the United States and our foreign partners.”

- Catherine A. Novelli, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment.

What are Open Skies Agreements?

Open Skies agreements are bilateral agreements that the U.S. government negotiates with other countries to provide rights for airlines to offer international passenger and cargo services. They are pro-consumer, pro-competition, and pro-growth. They expand international passenger and cargo flights by eliminating government interference in commercial airline decisions about routes, capacity, and pricing, so airlines can provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service to consumers, promoting increased travel and trade, and spurring high-quality job creation and economic growth. Open Skies agreements expand cooperative marketing opportunities between airlines, liberalize charter regulations, improve flexibility for airline operations, and commit both governments to high standards of safety and security. They also facilitate countless new cultural links worldwide.

Growth in Open Skies Partnerships

Since 1992, the United States has achieved Open Skies with 120 foreign partners. In 2015 and 2016, we finalized Open Skies agreements with Ukraine, Serbia, Cote d’ Ivoire, Seychelles, Togo, Azerbaijan and Curacao (Kingdom of the Netherlands) and a modernized air transport agreement with Mexico. Over 70 percent of international departures from the United States now fly to Open Skies partners. We have Open Skies with countries at all levels of economic development, including major economies like Brazil, India, Japan, and South Korea and smaller countries like Equatorial Guinea. Our agreement with the European Union liberalized the largest international aviation market in the world.


  • Open Skies contributes to the success of the President’s National Export Initiative, the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, and the Department of State’s Economic Statecraft Initiative.
  • The business model for the international package delivery sector, employing over half a million people, depends on Open Skies to operate competitively in foreign markets. U.S. air freight services to fast-growing regions like the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Africa exceeded $1 billion in 2013 and contributed over $3 billion to the U.S. trade balance in the last five years.
  • The Brookings Institution estimates that Open Skies agreements add approximately $4 billion in annual economic gains to consumers.
  • U.S. Airlines for Open Skies estimates that full liberalization through Open Skies agreements would lead to a 16-percent increase in air traffic and support 9 million jobs in aviation and related industries.
  • Open Skies has dramatically expanded direct international connections to cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orlando, Portland, and Salt Lake City.
  • A private study found that new direct service between a U.S. city and a point in the European Union generates up to $720 million annually in new economic activity for the U.S. city and its local region, depending on the size of the markets.
  • Portland International Airport estimates that its direct international flights to Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt generate over $240 million in airport and visitor revenue.
  • The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority estimates that aviation liberalization with Brazil helped increase the number of visitors from Brazil to Orlando from 74,000 in 2004 to 768,000 in 2013, and that Emirates’ service from Dubai will add $100 million in new economic activity in Central Florida and create 1,500 jobs.