DOT wants to increase int'l service to Alaska

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WASHINGTON -- The Transportation Department is hoping it can help boost international air service to Alaska.

Not long ago, Alaska was a popular refueling point for aircraft on international flights, so much so that the airport in Anchorage used to boast of the number of foreign flags flown outside the terminal, representative of the various carriers that landed there. But the development of longer-range aircraft has made the stops less necessary, as has the opening of Russian air space, which shortened many northerly routes.

The DOT has taken regulatory actions in recent years to encourage air service to the geographically isolated state. But that has not been enough, so now the DOT is planning additional steps:

  • In future bilateral aviation negotiations, the U.S. will propose letting each country exceed restrictions on the number of airlines and frequencies if the additions are for service via Alaska.
  • The DOT will give foreign carriers with U.S. route rights additional authority to serve any point in Alaska.
  • The DOT is considering a plan -- pending public comment -- to invite foreign carriers to apply for the right to serve additional U.S. points on an extrabilateral basis if those flights also serve Alaska.
  • Pointedly, airlines of the U.K., a country for which the DOT is in no mood to do favors these days, would be excluded from the latter two initiatives. Open-skies talks between the two countries have stalled, although an informal meeting is planned for this month.

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