August 2, 2019 / 8:28 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. gives tentative approval for expanded Delta, Air France, Virgin joint venture

(Recasts to reflect U.S. Department of Transportation's confirmation of tentative approval)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao granted tentative approval on Friday for an expanded transatlantic joint venture made up of Delta Air Lines Inc , Air France KLM SA and Virgin Atlantic .

The expanded joint venture would replace two previously approved arrangements in the U.S.-United Kingdom and U.S.-Continental Europe markets and will allow for additional benefits like more options on European flights, a Department of Transportation statement said.

The Department tentatively approved antitrust immunity for the joint venture and will require the carriers to report annually on commercial cooperation efforts and provide a detailed assessment after five years, the statement said.

In May 2018, the three airlines signed definitive agreements as part of a plan for an expanded transatlantic joint venture.

EU antitrust regulators in February cleared Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Group to acquire joint control over Virgin Atlantic, saying they did not see any competition concerns.

The deal involves Air France-KLM buying 31% of Virgin Atlantic from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, giving it joint control of the airline together with Delta and Virgin Group.

Delta, which owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic and 9% of Air France-KLM, did not immediately comment on Friday. (Reporting by David Shepardson and Bryan Pietsch in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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