The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) on Monday said that it had tentatively approved the proposed agreement between Delta Air Lines and WestJet that would allow both airlines to expand flights beyond the U.S.-Canada border.
The agreement was first announced when the airlines signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2017 and finally received the long-awaited approval needed from the DOT, though conditions remain.
According to a release by the DOT, Swoop, WestJet’s low-cost affiliate, would have to be removed from the alliance, along with 16 takeoff and landing slots at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The DOT also wants WestJet to “provide interline access to select carriers flying to Canada” and leaves open a review of the agreement five years down the line.
But, the news means that the long-awaited partnership can take another step forward, with the carriers having 14-days to file answers to the DOT’s notice. WestJet, for its part, said in a statement on Monday that it will respond to the notice and that it welcomes the approval.
Should the deal be completely finalized, it will create a partnership that will allow the airlines to serve more than 30 cities and over 95% of the U.S. and Canada. It will also allow both to provide frequent flyer and loyalty benefits to flyers from both airlines.
In a statement announcing the approval from the CCB last summer, both airlines said the deal will give consumers more choice on both sides of the border, creating “an expanded network with more frequencies and destinations, improved airport connections, and significantly enhanced frequent flyer benefits,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.
“The joint venture will lead to more consumer choice, connectivity, and economic benefits on both sides of the border by growing U.S.-Canada business and tourism travel,” WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims said at the time.