US DOT endorses part of the Delta-Virgin Blue codeshare

Washington DC
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Officials from the US Department of Transportation have approved a codesharing pact between Delta Air Lines and Australian carrier Virgin Blue.

The Virgin Blue Group and Delta on 8 July outlined their plans to develop and seek approval for a joint venture. The planned first phase includes codeshare development and frequent flyer reciprocity.

DOT has endorsed codesharing between Australian domestic carrier Virgin Blue and Delta effective 1 September.

In approving the domestic elements on the codeshare DOT explains that Delta has completed a codeshare safety audit of Virgin Blue, but audits are not completed other Virgin Blue group members Pacific Blue and V Australia. "Therefore, the Delta designator code cannot be placed on flights operated by those carriers until such time that a codeshare safety audit has been completed on those carriers," DOT explains.

Delta currently operates a daily Los Angeles-Sydney flight while Virgin Blue's long-haul subsidiary V Australia also flies between those two destinations daily. V Australia's three weekly flights from Los Angeles to both Brisbane and Melbourne are scheduled to begin this month.

Placing their respective codes on domestic flights is the first step of a deepening relationship between Delta and the Virgin Blue Group. If they secure necessary approvals for the proposed joint venture, the two carriers plans to co-ordinate schedules, capacity, routes and pricing and the sharing of revenue on their trans-Pacific routes.

Both Air New Zealand and Singapore-based low-cost carrier Tiger Airways, which operates an Australian subsidiary, have voiced opposition to the Delta-Virgin Blue tie-up.

Air New Zealand in January failed to secure approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to partner with Air Canada to jointly promote and sell Air Canada's flights between Sydney and Vancouver and Air New Zealand's service from Auckland to Vancouver.