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Japan, US to implement 'open skies' deal

Japan and the United States will implement an "open-skies" deal today, aiming at liberalising air traffic, with Tokyo also eyeing expanding similar pacts within Asia to include Tokyo's major airports.

world Updated: Oct 25, 2010 13:44 IST

Japan and the United States will implement an "open-skies" deal on Monday, aiming at liberalising air traffic, with Tokyo also eyeing expanding similar pacts within Asia to include Tokyo's major airports.

Tokyo and Washington in December agreed to the deal, allowing carriers from the two countries to adapt to growing demand and ending a half-century accord that restricted flights.

Japanese Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi and US Ambassador to Japan John Roos will announce the official implementation of the deal later Monday.

With the open skies pact taking effect, it will allow carriers to decide routes and the number of flights between the countries.

Washington has given the green light to Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways after they both sought immunity from US anti-trust laws to allow further cooperation with their partners, such as coordinating prices.

"It is significant that Japan and the United States will introduce an open-skies pact covering the Pacific, one of the biggest aviation zones," said Takahiko Kishi, an aviation analyst with Mizuho Investors Securities.

"The open-skies accord is expected to allow Japanese and US carriers to form alliances freely and do business more effectively, leading to cost cuts and more flexible decision-making in a tough business environment."

Japan Airlines, which is in the midst of a state-led restructuring after declaring bankruptcy earlier this year, is part of the Oneworld alliance with American Airlines.

American persuaded JAL to remain part of the alliance earlier this year after a push by Delta Air Lines to lure it into its rival SkyTeam grouping.

In August JAL announced details of a rehabilitation plan that will see thousands of job cuts as well as route closures and a debt waiver.

All Nippon Airways is a member of the Star Alliance with newly merged United Airlines and Continental Airlines.

In a related move, the Japanese government is aiming to widen a similar pact with Asian countries, which would allow new airlines and budget carriers to enter Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports, the Nikkei daily said Monday.

Japan is aiming to widen deals with nine Asian nations and regions, including South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore as it looks to expand the number of landing slots at the Tokyo airports, the Nikkei said.

It also aims to sign similar deals with China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and others in the near future, it said.

Haneda airport opened a new runway and passenger terminal last week to make it the city's second international hub and boost the capital's stature as an Asian gateway.