Delta and WestJet request to form immunized joint venture

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Delta and Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet have reached a preliminary agreement to form a antitrust-immune joint venture.

Should the joint venture be approved by the companies’ boards and by antitrust regulators in Canada and the U.S., Delta and WestJet would jointly schedule, market and operate flights between the U.S. and Canada.

The deal would expand upon the codeshare and frequent-flyer program partnership that the two carriers have had since 2012.

Delta currently codeshares on 72 WestJet routes to 33 Canadian cities and WestJet codeshares on 168 Delta routes to 74 U.S. cities.

The airlines said the joint venture would lead to coordinated flight schedules for new nonstop flights, expanded codesharing and enhanced frequent-flyer benefits for Delta SkyMiles and WestJet Rewards program members.

Delta has existing joint ventures with Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Aeromexico and Air France-KLM/Alitalia.

U.S. regulators have typically approved joint venture applications in recent years, though sometimes with a few restrictive conditions attached.

In one exception to that pattern, the Department of Transportation rejected an American-Qantas joint venture application late last year out of concern that the carriers would control too much of U.S.-Australia market.

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