Airlines: U.S. and Australia to get more routes

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A new agreement will make it easier to fly to Australia. But prices aren't likely to drop anytime soon. That's because there are no Australian or U.S. airlines that have planes on hand to launch new routes this year.

An Open Skies agreement goes into effect soon after its formal signing this year, allowing U.S. and Australian airlines to operate transpacific flights between any cities they like. V Australia, a soon-to-be-born spinoff of Virgin Blue, the discount carrier spawned by Richard Branson, could operate cheap flights between Sydney-Honolulu or Sydney-New York City. V Australia expects to have 10 weekly frequencies between the countries once it debuts at the end of this year. U.S. airline Hawaiian may also start offering flights, but it needs to increase its plane capacity first.

Up until now, only United and Qantascould offer direct flights. Now other airlines will be able to get into the fray and set prices and routes at will. But, as the blog Global Travellerhas noted, Singapore Airlines and Emirates have been shut out of this deal, even though their entry could have lowered prices. Sigh.

[A similar accord will open up flights into and out of Heathrow, England. For a long time, American and British Airways had special rights to gates at Heathrow--but the gates are being opened up to other airlines this March.]

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