Delta Air Lines expects its joint venture with Virgin Atlantic Airways to be in place by the end of 2013, according to the US carrier's president, Ed Bastian.
Speaking to journalists at a press event in London, Bastian said he expects the venture to receive anti-trust immunity from regulators during the third quarter of 2013. There is no apparent reason for it to be blocked, he adds.
Citing British Airways's dominance at London Heathrow airport, Bastian says it is "hard to understand how this [the joint venture] is anything but positive in terms of offering better service and more competition".
He is also adamant that Virgin's brand will remain in use once the joint venture has come into effect, dismissing claims made by IAG chief executive Willie Walsh shortly after Delta announced its acquisition of 49% of Virgin.
"I see no environment where that [abolition of the brand] would be a reality," Bastian insists. "When you have the best brand over the Atlantic, why would you destroy that?"
The Delta president says the joint venture between his carrier and "such a large and important market as London" will mean - in addition to existing tie-ups with Air France, Alitalia and KLM - Delta will have a "ubiquitous presence" in the transatlantic market.
He adds that the airlines will also be filing for five-way anti-trust immunity "to have all the legal immunities to be able to network". However, Bastian does not envisage this entailing a five-way revenue and cost-share.