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WestJet eyes transpacific joint ventures

Canadian carrier WestJet intends to seek joint ventures with carriers that fly across the Pacific Ocean after it finalises deals with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM Group, says WestJet's chief executive Ed Sims.

Speaking during a Scotiabank transportation conference earlier this week, Sims suggests Korean Air could be a potential candidate.

Such a move would mark a continuation by WestJet of a strategy of international expansion via joint businesses with foreign airlines.

Calgary-based WestJet started down that path in late 2017 when it announced plans to create a joint venture with Delta. The carriers are now waiting for regulators to grant that deal immunity from anti-trust laws.

Meanwhile, WestJet is working to create a transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM, which is 10% owned by Delta and has a joint venture with Delta.

"The minute that we conclude our [anti-trust immunity approval] with Delta we will be looking to ensure that we apply for the same approvals on a transatlantic joint venture," Sims tells investors during a Scotiabank transportation conference earlier this week. "Once we concluded those commercial negotiations, we will turn our attention to the Pacific."

Sims did not say which carriers WestJet might approach, but says Delta "opened the door" for WestJet to speak with both Korean Air and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Delta already has joint ventures with Korean and Virgin Atlantic, and it owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic's parent.

"That's hugely valuable for us… to have those doors open," Sims says.

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