An expanded marketing alliance that Delta Air Lines has reached with Alaska Air Group will help feed passengers to support new international...

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ATLANTA — An expanded marketing alliance that Delta Air Lines has reached with Alaska Air Group will help feed passengers to support new international routes Delta plans to launch next year, the carriers said today.

Delta’s chief, meanwhile, said the two carriers have not had any discussions about a combination.

Delta and Alaska Air said today that they will offer customers connecting service to more than 50 destinations to-and-from Los Angeles, more than 70 destinations to-and-from Seattle, more than 30 destinations to-and-from Portland, and nearly 20 destinations to-and-from San Francisco.

When fully phased in, Delta and its international partners are expected to be the main provider to Alaska Air customers of international service to-and-from those four U.S. cities, Delta spokesman Kent Landers said.

The carriers said in a statement that the network will provide new customers to support two new long-haul international routes from the West Coast in 2009 — Seattle to Beijing, effective March 1, and Los Angeles to São Paulo, Brazil, effective spring 2009. The Beijing route will be operated by Delta subsidiary Northwest Airlines, while the Brazil route, subject to regulatory approval, will be operated by Delta.

Delta said the new routes will complement existing long-haul international service from the West Coast offered by Delta, including Northwest-operated flights. Delta acquired Northwest for $2.8 billion in stock on Oct. 29.

Delta is the world’s biggest carrier. Seattle-based Alaska Air operates Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, which together serve more than 90 cities through their network in Alaska, Hawaii, the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Atlanta-based Delta’s marketing alliance with Alaska Air was launched in 2004, and there has been a relationship of more than 20 years between Alaska, Horizon and Northwest. Currently, code-sharing by Delta, including Northwest, extends to more than 100 markets served by Alaska Air, including Horizon, and code-sharing by Alaska Air extends to more than 30 markets served by Delta. Currently, Delta frequent fliers can book award tickets on Alaska Air flights that carry the Delta code.

Delta’s announcement today involves enhancements to those agreements. By the end of 2009, Delta and Alaska/Horizon will allow members of their respective frequent flier programs to enjoy elite benefits on each other’s flights. The arrangement also includes reciprocal use of airport VIP lounges.

Under code-sharing arrangements, one airline puts its name or code on a flight operated by the other, allowing it to sell tickets on the other’s flights. The carriers, in turn, generally share that revenue. Code-sharing is considered a low-risk way for airlines to expand their networks without the added cost of more planes and employees.

Credit Suisse analyst Daniel McKenzie said in a research note in October that his firm has not ruled out the possibility of further merger and acquisition activity for Delta in the future. He said then that Alaska Air Group or New York-based JetBlue Airways “remain appealing targets, both with attractive assets and strategic positioning that would enable DAL/NWA (Delta/Northwest) to better compete with what we consider is an inevitable CAL/UAUA (Continental/United Airlines) combination sometime down the road.”

During a conference call with reporters today, Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson said he has not spoken with the CEO of Alaska Air about a combination.

That’s “not been the subject of any of our conversations at all,” Anderson said.

Asked whether Delta might be interested in a combination with Alaska Air in the future, Anderson said, “We never speculate about those kinds of things.”

Last week, Delta announced plans to add 15 new international routes starting next spring. Those plans include adding three new nonstop trans-Pacific flights between the U.S. and Tokyo-Narita, Japan, including new nonstop flights from Salt Lake City and New York-JFK; new flights between Atlanta and Nairobi, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa, via Dakar, Senegal; and new flights from New York-JFK to Prague, Czech Republic, and Zurich, Switzerland. Among other additions, Delta said that it plans to add a second nonstop flight between New York-JFK and Tel Aviv, Israel.