Technology: Watch the Skies

In the Howard Hawks sci-fi classic about a UFO that lands in the open skies of the North Pole, reporter Ned “Scotty” Scott warns the audience, “Watch the skies, everywhere!”

Open Skies of another sort is under greater scrutiny than ever as a consequence of the recent agreement between the European Union and the U.S. that takes effect March 30. The agreement is a catalyst for change in the way airlines do business and where they do business.

Open Skies opens up airport hubs between Europe and the U.S. to different airlines. Well, at least theoretically.

The immediate problem keeping more airlines from reorganizing their take-off and landing slots to better serve passengers is the incipient lack of slots. As a recent Financial Times article by
Roger Bray reported, “With runway capacity effectively exhausted, something has to give. For each flight added, another less lucrative service invariably has to be sold, scrapped or moved.”

Apparently, the airlines and airports still need to figure out how to open up Open Skies. Also hindering full exploitation of the new agreement is the still-open question of when the second phase of Open Skies will be adopted. The second phase calls for a relaxation of restrictions on European airlines’ investment in U.S. carriers, which is a step Congress has been loathe to permit.

Meantime, Open Skies opens up a whole domino effect scenario in which change could sweep right down the “travel chain” of not just airport slots but luggage handling, airport operations, flight operations, ground transportation, airline amenities, even loyalty programs.

I think Scotty Scott had it right when he said, “Keep looking. Keep watching the skies! ”

Airline Futurist • Miami •