Delta Air Lines and the US DoT: labour gains traction over JVs

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If Delta Air Lines' proposed JVs with WestJet and LATAM Airlines Group come to fruition, the annual contribution to Delta from its immunised relationships with various airlines worldwide will cross the USD20 billion threshold. Those relationships are a key pillar of Delta's international strategy that is unmatched by its large full service rivals in the US.

But Delta has to strike a delicate balance between, on the one hand, reaping the benefits from its strategy of largely taking equity stakes in foreign airlines and forging antitrust immunity with those operators and on the other, navigating concerns expressed by labour groups. Delta's pilots have been vocal in pushing for equitable distribution of growth in those partnerships, and believe that in some cases Delta has essentially outsourced operations to airlines whose flight crews have less favourable wages and work rules.

The union representing Delta's pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), recently gained some traction with US regulators after the DoT stipulated that Delta, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic needed to include the effects on US aviation jobs in a regular self-assessment of their Blue Skies joint venture.

ALPA is now pushing for a similar requirement in Delta's proposed JV with WestJet.

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