Travel Weekly editor Sarah LongbottomIn a historic move, the first stage of an open-skies agreement took effect this week, opening up airline access across the pond from Heathrow.

Discussions about this transatlantic liberalisation have been dragging on for years so it is a huge progression to finally see the start of its implementation.

What this means for passengers is a greater choice of airlines to the US and, potentially, more competitive fares. Despite the ever-increasing price of oil, four airlines – all American – are taking advantage of the agreement.

The addition of more than 7,000 seats will hopefully prove a boon to agents and operators, who will have access to more seats than ever at a time when capacity on other routes is being cut.

Another huge change in the aviation world can be found at Heathrow Terminal 5, which opened for business today, exclusively for British Airways.

Even if Terminal 5 doesn’t entirely live up to BA’s promises of no queues, new technology will mean the ‘self-service’ terminal should, at the very least, considerably speed up check-in and security processes.

It will be interesting to see the results of BA’s new computerised baggage handling system, which aims to reduce lost baggage. This would mean a welcome change from the airline’s dismal record in the past.

In a security twist, plans to fingerprint passengers at Terminal 5 have been called in to question under the Data Protection Act.

It is astounding that, in this day and age and after the horror of September 11, there are people who still insist on questioning additional airport security.

The US has long been taking fingerprints of airport passengers, and it is a simple, quick process.

According to a spokesman from a privacy campaign group, this method is “intrusive”. Far better that than any surprises in the air, surely.