UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has signed an aviation agreement with the US to ensure that air travel continues between the two countries after the end of the Brexit transition period set to start in January 2021.

The Air Services Agreement – which was signed on behalf of the US by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao – effectively replaces the existing EU-US Air Transport Agreement. The EU-US agreement was signed in the 2007 and outlined a regulatory framework “to promote safe, affordable, profitable and competitive air transport” between the two blocks.

The UK Government said that the new treaty, worth more than £230bn, will allow the UK to remain a global aviation hub, not only for passengers but also for commercial operations.

“The Air Services Agreement will allow us to continue to travel and trade with one of our closest friends and allies, working together to mutually boost our economies either side of the Atlantic,” he commented. “This is just one of many steps we’re taking as we move towards a bright new future at the end of the transition period.”

“This historic US-UK Open Skies Agreement builds upon the special relationship that exists between our nations,” added Chao.

Initially signed in 2018 but confirmed today, the Air Services Agreement is part of the US Open Skies Agreements, a set of policies whose aim is to eliminate government interference in airlines’ commercial decisions about routes, capacity, and pricing.

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The treaty is set to become legal on 1 January 2021, after both parties have completed all necessary procedures.

The news was well-received by stakeholders all around the industry.

“This is good news,” commented a spokesperson for IAG, British Airways‘ parent company.

“On the day British Airways launches a ground-breaking Covid-19 testing trial with American Airlines and oneworld it’s great to see that the UK and US have cemented our critical aviation links. This forms a strong basis to re-open flying to the US.”

“The US is a key market for the UK, with the Heathrow – New York route listed as the most lucrative in the world, that is why we need the Government’s Travel Taskforce to open a pilot airbridge to America at the earliest opportunity,” added a Heathrow spokesperson. “Airport testing is key to safely restarting trade and travel between the two nations in a post-COVID world.”