Celebrating 100 Open Skies Agreements

On Wednesday, Diane Peterson and I were privileged to attend a ceremony at the Department of State celebrating the 100th Open Skies Agreement, signed with Colombia in late 2010.

Jose Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, opened the program, introducing Secretary Hillary Clinton, who emphasized the importance of the Open Skies agreements not only for the economic benefits for airports, airlines and the economy but also as a means to achieve “people-to-people diplomacy”.

The important contribution of airports in not only supporting the concept of Open Skies, but also in actively participating in the negotiations was mentioned by several speakers, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  He emphasized that “the global transportation system is the glue that makes the global community a community at all”, bringing benefits to the traveling and shipping public.  While ACI-NA president Greg Principato could not attend (he is speaking at the California Airports Council meeting in Sacramento), airports were well represented by Jeff Fegan, CEO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, who presented remarks following LaHood.  You can watch the entire ceremony by going to the DOT FastLaneblog.

Paul Wiedefeld, Executive Director of the Maryland Aviation Administration; Bradley Rubinstein, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Don Fields, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; Lucinda Harshman, Pittsburgh International Airport; Joe Cambron, Detroit Metropolitan Airport; and Phil Ritter, DFW, also attended the ceremony, which was held in the beautiful Benjamin Franklin room at State.

ACI-NA serves a unique role in Open Skies, participating as a member of the U.S. delegation, which negotiates international aviation issues and in preparations leading up to aviation consultations and decisions. The direct participation ensures that negotiators at both State and DOT are aware of airport issues and concerns. It also enables ACI-NA to inform airports of on-going developments so they can effectively pursue their specific interests with airlines and the government representatives.

Open Skies Agreement #101 was signed with Brazil; next up are negotiations with China in August 2011.  U.S. airports will be well represented in those negotiations by Diane Peterson who has been involved in the vast majority of the Open Skies negotiations since the United States signed the first agreement with the Netherlands in 1992 as well as many other U.S. air service negotiations.