Open skies reform is set to revolutionise transatlantic security standards with the real prospect of the USA at last agreeing to one-stop security for transatlantic passengers.

The key aviation deal that will apply from March will not only ease restrictions on routes between the Europe and the USA, but will also introduce the principle of the current European Union system, whereby passengers and their baggage travelling intra-EU, having undergone security controls at one community airport, need not repeat them when transferring through another.

A senior EC source responsible for aviation security says: "The way in which we will co-operate on security matters will indeed change significantly because there is now a reciprocal will on both sides of the Atlantic both to reinforce security and to work towards regulatory convergence through a harmonisation of measures."

Within the EU, 24 of the 27 member states already apply one-stop-security measures on intra-EU flights - all except Ireland, the UK and France, which is reported to be re-examining its position on this.

All states will remain subject to special security requests, however, although it is hoped the Open Skies co-operation framework will establish a system making such requests unnecessary.

Although the EC official says the threat of terrorism is not perceived to originate or be targeted at one region more than another, Europe hopes this will lead to less unilateral measures being applied by the USA.

"The political reality, however, is that if there is an incident, the USA would doubtless impose immediate measures, with EU states at risk of losing their traffic rights if they fail to comply," he adds.

The new aviation security rules will not come into effect immediately after the official launch of Open Skies, but will be introduced through ongoing co-operation with the US authorities.

The source admits that the new security rules will not affect any existing arrangements outside the classic definition of airport security and that issues such as advanced data transfer of passenger information or armed sky marshals will not feature in the Open Skies deal, rather as part of the ongoing overhaul of existing rules governing European aviation security.