jetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK) has filed a second motion with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) urging a thorough review of the proposed transatlantic joint venture between Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Delta Air Lines.

The American carrier said that new factors have emerged since it filed its first motion at the end of November.

"First, British carrier flybe. (BE, Exeter), itself the recipient of competition remedy slots at London Heathrow, has indicated that it is seeking to sell itself to either Virgin Atlantic or IAG International Airlines Group. In addition to remedy slots at LHR, flybe. also holds significant slot holdings at Paris CDG and Amsterdam Schiphol. flybe.'s acquisition, by either IAG or Virgin Atlantic, would have significant effects on competition at slot-controlled airports like LHR and AMS where no new slots are available, and further deter the introduction of competitive services from new entrant carriers," jetBlue said.

The airline argued that the approval of the JV would grant the applicants too much of a control over Heathrow slots, thus practically impeding the ability of jetBlue to launch its own transatlantic services.

"This is not an academic or theoretical issue for jetBlue. New aircraft developments make it possible for JetBlue to serve western Europe from its northeastern United States focus cities. Primera Air Scandinavia and other carriers have already proven that the A321-200neo can be used to serve transatlantic routes... jetBlue has options to convert future [A321neo] deliveries to the A321LR variant. However, at the recent IATA Slots Conference in Madrid, several European airport slot allocation officials informed jetBlue representatives to “not bother” submitting further routine slot requests at concentrated airports," the airline said.

jetBlue also argued that as Alitalia (AZ, Rome Fiumicino) might eventually join the JV, the DOT should also examine the Italian carrier's slot holdings. Furthermore, jetBlue also pointed out that the analysis should take into account the recently signed UK-US bilateral air traffic rights agreement which will come into effect once the UK leaves the European Union.

"It is premature for the Department to advance this anti-trust immunity proceeding when a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ in 14 weeks could result in a UK-EU regulatory climate that does not support new ATI grants for such broad joint ventures," jetBlue added.

For its part, the JV applicants said in a joint response earlier in December that the new agreement "will simply combine Delta’s two already-approved transatlantic joint ventures with an amended agreement that will close the small seam between the existing JVs by establishing metal neutrality".