Forget what you know about getting your groups to Europe. The Open Skies Agreement between the United States and the European Union, which went into effect earlier this year, will eliminate decades of restrictions on the trans-Atlantic airline market.

Under the accord, U.S. and EU airlines will be able to operate to and from any airport, and U.S. carriers will be able to fly within Europe and to continue on to other destinations. EU airlines have not won the right to operate intra-U.S. flights.

The rules have set off a grab for take-off and landing slots, with airlines on both sides of the Atlantic hoping to improve their market share.

Among the destinations most affected will be London's Heathrow airport, which, since 1977, has been operating under the Bermuda II agreement, which allows only four airlines — British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American, and United — to fly between Heathrow and the U.S.

Here's a sample of the changes that Open Skies has set in motion:

  • In June, British Airways plans to launch a U.S.-EU subsidiary airline with daily flights from New York to either Brussels or Paris.

  • Delta — in partnership with Air France-KLM — will fly from Heathrow to New York and Atlanta, while Air France-KLM plans a new Heathrow-Los Angeles route.

  • Continental will be using Heathrow for the first time for flights from Newark, N.J., and Houston.

  • British Airways plans to move its Dallas and Houston flights from Gatwick to Heathrow.

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