Nation & World

American Airlines, Qantas win tentative OK for joint venture

Virgin America vanishes along with Branson's U.S. dream

Bloomberg

A Virgin America Airbus airplane sits before taxiing to the runway at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., in 2016.
Bloomberg A Virgin America Airbus airplane sits before taxiing to the runway at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., in 2016.

American Airlines Group and Qantas Airways have been given the U.S. government’s tentative approval to operate a joint venture after a previous effort was rejected in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Virgin America brand now is aviation history, bringing a formal end to Richard Branson’s brash, groundbreaking effort to put some European flair — replete with cheeky branding and mood-lighting — into U.S. skies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday issued an order tentatively approving the American Airlines-Qantas joint business agreement and tentatively granting antitrust immunity to the airlines covering international service.

An application for a joint venture covering the United States, Australia and New Zealand was rejected by then-President Barack Obama’s administration.

The deal would allow the airlines to coordinate their planning, pricing, sales and frequent flyer programs, with new options and customer service improvements. The airlines planned up to three new routes within the first two years and increased capacity on existing routes, the department said.

American Airlines said a final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Alaska air repaints

Alaska Air Group has finished repainting the Airbus fleet it acquired when it bought the Branson-backed Virgin America carrier three years ago.

The 71st and final Alaska Airbus A321neo was scheduled to roll out of a painting facility in Victorville, Calif., Sunday after nine days of refurbishments, resuming commercial service Monday.

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Alaska still is working to convert all the former Virgin interiors, a task it expects to complete by next spring.

For Virgin America, Alaska spent $2.6 billion as part of an aggressive effort to bolster its competitive presence in California.

In April, Alaska announced that it had repaid half the $2 billion it borrowed for the deal.

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