Delta Air Lines needs to sharpen up its act as Continental scores a double victory over rival Delta in the race for Latin American routes.

In Venezuela, Continental has won transport ministry approval to start inbound flights while Delta still waits for comparable approval. In Chile, Continental has beaten both Delta and United Airlines in a hot contest for new US-Chile frequencies. Continental was due to launch daily Newark-Santiago flights in mid-December 1997.

New flights to Venezuela have sparked tension between Washington and Caracas. Although US-Venezuela frequencies are allowed under bilateral agreements, Venezuela's transport ministry has been reluctant to grant them as Venezuela cannot add US flights because of its Category 2 rating. Washington counters that the FAA's freeze is a safety issue unrelated to bilateral rights.

Caracas is, however, gradually relenting under pressure from Washington. It has already approved American Airlines's new service from Dallas, and Continental flights from Houston, leaving just Delta's Atlanta-Caracas flights, which Delta had hoped to launch in December.

Delta is reverting to partnership tactics in a bid to strengthen its Latin American hand. The carrier has signed a letter of intent to codeshare with Venezuelan carrier, Aeropostal. While Aeropostal does not fly to the US due to Venezuela's Category 2 rating, an alliance with Aeropostal could enhance Delta's clearance by Caracas.

Continental's victory over Delta and United on Chile frequencies follows Continental's offer of non-stop services from New York, the DOT claims.

David Knibb

Source: Airline Business