Delta Air Lines is planning to expand services into Central and South America in a bid to turn its Atlanta, Georgia, hub into a major gateway for Latin America.

The USA's third-largest airline will begin daily non-stop service on 5 April between Atlanta and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. It is also seeking authority from the US Transportation Department (DoT) to serve Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Delta had previously announced plans to begin services to Venezuela, and add New York-San Paulo to its Brazil services. Already before the DoT are applications to serve Chile and Peru. Delta also codeshares with Aeromexico and Transbrasil, having terminated its codeshare with Varig this year when the Brazilian carrier revealed that it was to link with United Airlines and join the Star Alliance.

Leo Mullin, Delta's president and chief executive, says that his goal is to make Atlanta's Hartsfield International "a competitive and convenient Latin American gateway". He also intends to offer a new non-stop service to Latin America from New York Kennedy.

Delta is urging the Clinton Administration to open talks with Argentina and Colombia to expand bilateral aviation agreements.

American Airlines is dominant among US carriers serving Latin America, with Miami the main gateway. More than 14 million passengers travel between the USA and Latin America annually. Average yearly traffic growth is expected to be 10% until 2001. "Miami will be hard-pressed to handle this growth," says Mullin.


Source: Flight International