US DOT Signs Off On Delta-LATAM Joint Venture

Credit: Joe Pries

The US Transportation Department (DOT) has granted final approval to the Delta Air Lines-LATAM Airlines Group joint venture (JV), enabling the carriers to offer an expansive network in the Americas.

“Once implemented, the approval enables Delta and LATAM Airlines Group, LATAM Airlines Brasil, LATAM Airlines Colombia, LATAM Airlines Peru and LATAM Airlines Paraguay to begin the work of unlocking new customer and cargo benefits—including enhanced service and expanded route offerings—that will add to the codeshare routes and reciprocal loyalty benefits already in place,” the airlines said in a joint statement, noting that specific details about the partnership will be forthcoming in coming months.

SkyTeam member Delta acquired a 20% stake in LATAM in 2019 and the airlines applied to regulatory authorities to operate a metal-neutral, antitrust-immunized JV for flights between the US and South America.

The DOT granted tentative approval for the JV in June. The planned partnership has already gained approval from competition authorities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay. The carriers have said the agreement would cover around 7,000 city-pair markets and provide new or expanded service on at least 18 nonstop routes.

“Delta’s partnership with LATAM will help grow the market between North and South America and provide significant and much-needed benefits for customers, and we applaud the DOT for this final approval,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.

LATAM CEO Roberto Alvo added: “The approval by the DOT will give rise to the start of work with Delta to deliver more and better benefits to LATAM and Delta customers, such as faster connections, and the joint accrual of miles in frequent flyer programs, among many others. I am sure that, over time, we will be able to offer the best connections, while incorporating a sustainable view of the future.”

The airlines noted they already operate out of the same terminals at New York Kennedy (JFK), São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) and Santiago (SCL) in Chile.

The airlines are currently codesharing on 20 US-South America routes, plus beyond routes on Delta's network in the US and LATAM's network in South America. LATAM previously attempted to enter into a JV with oneworld’s American Airlines, but the deal fell through in 2019 and LATAM departed the oneworld alliance. It remains outside of a global alliance.

Delta already operates a JV with fellow SkyTeam partner Aeromexico.

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.