The United States and European Union today formally signed an "open skies" accord aimed at opening up more competition in transatlantic aviation.
US President George W Bush signed the agreement along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a US-EU summit in Washington.
The agreement, the fruit of several years of negotiations, will take effect next March 30 and will eliminate most limitations on US and EU airlines' ability to fly between the two continents.
"With this agreement, the honeymoon in Paris, the business trip to Dublin, and family reunion in Naples will be cheaper, easier, and within the reach of more Americans than ever before," said US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.
"Also, better access to American destinations means European visitors will bring new business to our local communities."
Both sides hold out the promise of cheaper airfares and more choice for passengers under the hard-fought agreement.
The European Union estimates it could generate more than 26 million extra passengers over the next five years and create 80,000 new jobs in the EU and United States combined.
Under the draft agreement, any EU carrier would be able to fly from anywhere in the bloc to any point in the United States and vice versa.