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US regulators reject anti-trust for Delta and Virgin Blue

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has tentatively decided to deny the request of the Virgin Blue Group and Delta Air Lines for anti-trust immunity.

"The weight of the evidence suggests that the primary effect of a grant of anti-trust immunity at this time would be to improve the market share of Delta and V Australia, without certainty that the applicants will be making structural improvements in the market that would create large-scale public benefits," says the DOT in its proposed decision.

The regulatory agency also notes in a press release that Delta and Virgin "have only recently entered the US-Australia market, have not shown developed plans to operate as commercial partners, and have limited their cooperation to a handful of routes, thereby limiting the public benefits their alliance might produce".

Delta and Virgin unveiled their proposed partnership last July, and began codesharing in January. The joint venture was approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in December 2009, but approval from both the ACCC and DOT are required.

The proposed joint venture includes Delta, Virgin Blue, V Australia, and Pacific Blue. Polynesian Blue was not included.

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