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JetBlue calls for review of possible Air Canada-United JV

JetBlue Airways is calling for a public review of a possible joint venture between Air Canada and United Airlines, similar to its push for one of Delta Air Lines planned tie-up with Korean Air.

The New York-based carrier asks the US Department of Transportation for a public review of any joint venture proposal submitted by the Star Alliance carriers under the antitrust authority they were granted in 1997, it says in a letter to DOT secretary Elaine Chao on 6 October.

Under that authority, Air Canada and United can submit their joint venture agreement to the regulator without a public review, JetBlue says citing previous regulatory precedent.

"United and Air Canada should not be allowed to avoid a public, contemporaneous competitive review of their joint venture agreement by relying on a twenty-year old ATI grant," says JetBlue.

Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu told FlightGlobal in June that he saw opportunity for a closer relationship with United in the Canada-US market. However, he did not go as far as to call for a joint venture with its US codeshare partner.

Asked about a 2012 decision by the Canada's Competition Bureau on a previous joint venture proposal between the airlines, Rovinescu said increased competition in the transborder market reduced the likelihood of concentration concerns.

JetBlue, in its letter to the DOT, says an Air Canada-United joint venture has "as much potential for serious competitive harm today as it did in 2012".

A planned joint venture between Delta and Korean Air has raised the same concerns from JetBlue. The airline asked the DOT for a public review of the SkyTeam Alliance carriers' joint venture agreement in May, more than a month before they publicly announced the accord.

Delta and Korean received US antitrust authority, but never implemented a joint venture, in 2002, like the case with Air Canada and United.

JetBlue does not compete directly with either possible tie-up, serving neither Canada nor South Korea.

Neither Air Canada nor United were immediately available to comment on JetBlue's letter.

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