Delta Air Lines and Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet have reached an agreement to create a joint business on routes between the USA and Canada.
The proposed "comprehensive transborder joint venture" would see the carriers coordinate flight schedules, launch new routes and expand an existing codeshare agreement, the carriers say on 6 December.
Through the deal, Delta and WestJet also intend to make connections between their flights more convenient and more closely integrate frequent-flyer programmes.
Calgary-based WestJet and Atlanta-based Delta have signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward with the plan, but formation of the joint business remains subject to final agreements and board and regulatory approval, the airlines say.
"This is an important step in WestJet’s mission to become a global airline," says WestJet executive vice-president of commercial Ed Sims.
The carriers do not disclose specific routes on which they hope to cooperate and do not provide a specific timeline for advancing the deal.
Delta in December will serve nine Canadian cities, most of them from hubs in Atlanta and Minneapolis-St Paul, FlightMaps Analytics shows.
WestJet will serve more than a dozen US cities in the month. Most of those cities are warm-weather destinations in the southern USA, though the carrier recently added flights to northern US cities like Boston and New York.
News of the Delta-WestJet tie-up comes amid indications Air Canada and United Airlines may be seeking to revive their own efforts to forge closer ties.
Those carriers in 2010 signed a memorandum of understanding to create a revenue-sharing joint business, but Canadian regulators torpedoed the deal due to competitive concerns.
Air Canada, including low-cost unit Rouge and partner Jazz Aviation, carried 528,000 seats in December between Canada and the USA, more than any other airline, according to Flightglobal schedules data.
WestJet and its regional subsidiary Encore carried 302,000 one-way seats between the countries in December.
Among US carriers, United carried the most seats in December between Canada and the USA – 64,000. American Airlines ranked second, with 48,000 seats, while Delta ranked third among US carriers, with 45,000 seats, data show.