The U.S. and Japan have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at establishing an open skies agreement between the two countries, the U.S. State Department said Monday.
The deal, signed by Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, will help cement a deal agreed to in principle by the countries last year.
Airlines from both countries have already secured tentative approval to capitalize on an open skies deal, and they embraced the formal MOU.
"With this critical milestone reached, we look forward to receiving final approval from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation granting antitrust immunity to United, Continental and our partner ANA to implement our trans-Pacific joint venture," United Continental Holdings said in a statement. "Early in 2011, we expect to be able to coordinate our planning and marketing activities, offering customers improved schedules and greater access to fare and service options."
Earlier this month, Japan approved the United/Continental-ANA joint venture and a similar tie-up between American Airlines and Japan Air Lines.