Delta and WestJet have finalized an agreement to form a
joint venture that would allow them to cooperate in the scheduling, marketing
and operations of U.S.-Canada flights.
The carriers entered into a tentative joint venture deal in early December.
In order for the partnership to become effective, the
carriers must be granted antitrust immunity by U.S. and Canadian regulators.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that
joint venture would enable his carrier and WestJet to offer more destinations
to more customers, as well as to improve connections and to enhance frequent
flyer benefits. The carriers also said the joint venture would allow them to
compete more effectively against other airlines.
Their biggest competition in the U.S-Canada marketplace
comes from codeshare partners Air Canada and United.
According to data provided in March by the air travel
intelligence company OAG, Delta and WestJet were slated to have 26%
of the U.S.-Canada transborder market this summer. That total
falls well short of Air Canada, which is slated to have 46% of the U.S.-Canada
market and United 12%.
Air Canada and United have a dormant joint venture that received antitrust immunity in 1997. But when the carriers attempted to
put the joint venture into effect early this decade, they were partially blocked
by the Canada Competition Bureau, which forbade joint operations on 14
high-demand routes that the bureau contended would see diminished competition
as a result of the partnership.
U.S. regulators have typically approved joint venture applications
in recent years, though sometimes with a few restrictive conditions attached.
In one exception, the Department of
Transportation rejected an American-Qantas joint venture application in 2016
out of concern that the carriers would control too much of U.S.-Australia
market. Those carriers have since resubmitted their application.
Delta has existing joint ventures with Virgin Atlantic,
Virgin Australia, Korean Air, Aeromexico and Air France KLM/Alitalia.
A Delta/WestJet joint venture would offer transborder
service to more than 30 cities covering over 95% of U.S.-Canada demand,
the carriers said.