Delta, the third-largest U.S. airline, will connect its network of routes in the southern U.S. with the networks of Continental and Northwest, which are stronger in the East and Midwest. While the three airlines will continue to schedule their flights independently, each will evaluate their schedules to maximize connections among the carriers. The airlines will also provide customers with seamless ticketing, check-in and baggage handling.
When the marketing agreement is fully implemented, customers will be able to accrue and redeem frequent flyer awards on any airline across the alliance.
"Enormous financial pressures threaten this industry. In recent weeks, some carriers have announced major restructuring, employee cutbacks, even bankruptcy," Leo F. Mullin, Delta chairman-CEO, said in a statement.
"This proposed agreement represents an important part of our plan to strengthen our competitive position in today's extraordinarily difficult operating environment."