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Open-skies agreement puts Australia within reach

G'day Australia! Yesterday, the U.S. and Australia announced an open-skies aviation agreement that will eliminate the current restrictions on air service between the two countries.

Back in January, I covered the possibility of an agreement in the Today in Travel blog, and pointed out that currently only Qantas and United connect the Yanks and the Aussies. But in the near future, airlines from both countries will be able to add new routes. Restrictions on capacity and pricing have been done away with, and the agreement has also opened up the possibility of code-sharing between U.S. and Australian carriers.

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As was the case last year when the U.S. signed open-skies agreements with Europe and China, the announcements come with the assurance of lower fares and more convenient service. But in this era of fuel surcharges, it's difficult to put too much stock in the promise of cheaper long-haul routes.

The agreement will go into effect after the formal signing. According to Australian newspaper The Age, Qantas has already announced an increase in service starting next month. And the country's tourism season starts to slow down in mid-April, so maybe this is a good time to start looking for a cheaper flight to Australia after all.

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