Delta, LATAM plan key step in partnership next year

Delta Air Lines said it plans to take a key step in a partnership with South American airline group LATAM starting next year -- one that's intended to make it easier for many travelers booking flights to South America.

Atlanta-based Delta in September announced plans to spend $1.9 billion to buy a 20 percent stake in LATAM. The full regulatory review is expected to take one to two years.

But some steps in the partnership can happen before that.

Pending government approvals, Delta said it will launch a "codeshare" marketing partnership with LATAM affiliates in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in the first quarter of 2020. Codesharing allows an airline to put its code on a flight operated by another airline and to sell tickets for that flight.

That will increase connectivity for passengers traveling to as many as 51 destinations in South America, according to the airline.

When announcing the LATAM deal, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: “The first step in this process is codesharing, which could be implemented as soon as the end of this year.”

A spokeswoman for Delta said Bastian was estimating the time, and noted that the agreements are subject to government approval.

Delta said it will expand codesharing to more destinations in the “near future,” and is also working on reciprocity for lounge access and frequent flier programs.

LATAM is exiting American Airlines’ Oneworld alliance as part of its agreement with Delta.