U.S. approves expanding Delta venture with European airlines

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Transportation Department is letting Delta, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic expand their joint venture on flights between the U.S. and Europe without worrying about violating antitrust laws.

The department on Thursday approved antitrust immunity for the expanded deal, which covers more European flights than two previous ones covering flights between the U.S. and both the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

Some consumer groups argued that the joint venture will reduce competition and lead to higher fares. JetBlue Airways, which plans to begin flights to Europe in 2021, said U.S.-Europe service is dominated by three big airline alliances -- it wanted the other carriers to give up takeoff and landing slots in London and Amsterdam.

The Transportation Department says it will protect competition.

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