Singapore, UK sign open skies agreement

Singapore and the United Kingdom have concluded an open skies agreement that removes all restrictions on air services provided by airlines based in the two countries, the city-state said on Wednesday 3 October. The agreement was reached nearly two decades after Singapore first proposed it.

The pact allows Singapore Airlines to pick up passengers from London's Heathrow Airport and fly to a third destination, while providing the same right to UK carriers at Changi Airport, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said in a statement.

The ministry said the agreement was much more liberal than conventional open skies agreements. It allows the carriers to base aircraft in each other's countries and operate services to any other destination without any restrictions on frequency of service or capacity.

Singapore carriers can even operate as a domestic airline in the UK and mount unlimited services between cities there. "This is a trailblazing agreement that promotes free competition in the aviation sector," said transport minister and second minister for foreign affairs Raymond Lim. The pact becomes effective from end-March 2008.

The open skies agreement comes just two weeks before Singapore Airlines takes delivery of its first Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airliner. The carrier aims to boost capacity growth with its super jumbo.

Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, has invested £105 million ($199 million; €155 million) into upgrading Terminal 3 to accommodate the eight-story tall double-decker aircraft.