In the nonstop jockeying among US carriers for position in Latin America, Delta Air Lines is gaining in three major markets at Continental Airlines' expense.

Continental has asked the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to reconsider its award to Delta of a new route to Colombia, but the Atlanta-based carrier is launching daily nonstops to Bogota on 1 December and moving ahead with plans to codeshare with Aces starting early next year.

Disclosure of Delta's new commercial links with Aces forced Continental to concede that its plans to buy an equity stake in Aces had failed, and that it was re-assessing its frequent flyer programme with the Colombian carrier.

Continental's reconsideration request to the DoT cites procedural defects. It claims the department did not conduct a full hearing before awarding the Bogota route to Delta and failed to define when a full hearing generally would be required. If the DoT disagrees, Continental could renew this challenge in court.

The Houston-based carrier has had another setback in the Brazilian market. Last year the DoT awarded Continental daily Houston-Sïo Paulo authority. Except for a two week period, however, Continental only flew the route four times a week, and Delta moved in asking for the three dormant frequencies. Continental countered that it would use them for a one-stop service via Lima. But the DoT preferred non-stops, and has reassigned the frequencies to Delta.

Delta is also moving into Chile just as Continental cuts back. Continental suspended its Newark-Santiago service at the end of October only days before Delta launched flights from Atlanta. Continental cites poor loads, but it was also caught in an aeropolitical crossfire earlier this year between Washington and Lima, which led to Lima rejecting its request for fifth freedoms beyond Peru.

Source: Airline Business