US shows support for airline venture between Delta, WestJet

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Transportation Department said Friday it has tentatively approved plans by Delta Air Lines and Canada's WestJet to work together in scheduling and setting prices for flights between the U.S. and Canada.

The department plans to grant the airlines immunity from antitrust laws, which would normally prevent competitors from working together so closely. It said the joint venture will increase options for travel between the two countries.

As a condition of approval, the Trump administration proposes that the airlines surrender some of their takeoff and landing rights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, enough to let other airlines run eight round trips a day. The government also proposes to exclude WestJet's discount carrier Swoop from the deal.

It was not immediately clear whether the government's conditions will be acceptable to the airlines. A Delta spokesman said the Atlanta-based airline was reviewing the proposal and had no further comment. A WestJet spokeswoman said the airlines would respond to the Transportation Department.

The joint venture would expand a partnership between the two airlines that goes back several years and includes selling seats on each other's flights. The airlines have said the deal will include new nonstop flights to new destinations and better reciprocal benefits for members of their frequent-flyer programs.

Delta has other joint ventures with foreign airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Air France-KLM and Aeromexico.

The Transportation Department said it will review the Delta-WestJet venture in five years.

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