The original timelime for a proposed Latin American joint business deal between Star Alliance members United Airlines, Avianca, and Copa Airlines has been delayed due to the possible inclusion of a fourth partner, Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, in which United has a stake, Reuters has confirmed.

Copa CEO Pedro Heilbron said the group expects to file paperwork with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), seeking antitrust immunity, in early 2020. In a separate interview, Avianca CEO Anko van der Werff said it would file in late 2019 or early 2020. Both were speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) Airline Leaders’ Forum in Brasilia on October 28.

The three airlines said in November 2018 that they would request US antitrust approval “in the near term” with the aim of easing traffic between South America and the United States, but in mid-October United Airlines revealed that it wanted to include Azul in the tie-up.

“Quite frankly, really completely open and honest, we haven’t had many discussions,” van der Werff said. “I personally haven’t had even one real, serious discussion at the CEO level about when to include [Azul] and what to include.”

Both chief executives said they wanted Azul to be part of the venture due to the size of the Brazilian aviation market in the region. But, in Heilbron's words, “it almost doubles the level of complexity.”

United confirmed to Reuters that it aimed to complete the application later this year or early next year, while Azul merely commented that it was “always looking for opportunities” with its partners.

In related news, van der Werff said at the ALTA forum on October 29 that Avianca Holdings had ruled out investing in Aeromar Airlines to boost its growth in Mexico. The former Aeroméxico executive, who joined Avianca on July 15, pointed out that he, in particular, had never thought it was a good idea to invest in Aeromar, the Mexican aviation news site A21 reported.

Under the previous leadership of Germán Efromovich, there had been talk of a potential purchase of the Mexican carrier and even a possible name change for it to Avianca Mexico.

“It was not a good idea because it does not add much. We already have a codeshare with AeroMéxico, which is much larger and has more frequencies. Investing just to have one more company or one brand doesn't give us anything else,” van der Werff said.