PARIS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Air France (AIRF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) and Delta Air Lines (DAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) are preparing to announce a new commercial deal as the gloves come off in a war for transatlantic business under the recent Open Skies deal between Europe and the United States.
The French carrier declined to comment on the joint venture ahead of a news conference and signing ceremony on Wednesday.
But analysts said it had given broad outlines of its transatlantic plans at an investor conference on Monday, including plans to fly direct from Heathrow to Los Angeles.
Chief Executive Jean-Cyril Spinetta told investors the deal with Delta would add "several dozens of million euros" in profits in 2008, according to two analyst notes on the event.
Air France has said it is close to finalising a deal with Skyteam partner Delta that would create better cost-sharing and integration on the transatlantic routes.
The Delta venture will be based partially on a 10-year-old agreement between KLM, which is part of the same group as Air France, and Northwest Airlines (NWA.N: Quote, Profile, Research), by pooling the economic benefit from transatlantic services, analysts said.
The deal follows an Open Skies agreement to free up competition between Europe and the United States from April.
"Air France-KLM has clearly decided to seize the new opportunities offered by the Open Skies agreement, especially for traffic departing from London Heathrow," Paris brokerage Oddo said in a note to clients.
In a direct challenge to British Airways (BAY.L: Quote, Profile, Research), Heathrow slots will be used to serve nine U.S. destinations under the AF code, including a Los Angeles flight operated by Air France itself, analysts said.
Did something get lost in translation here? Nine US destinations served from LHR? Where are all those slots supposed to come from, and who'll be flying those? Okay, LAX (AF), ATL/JFK (DL) are a given, but on top of that? BOS/CVG/SLC *could* be, but I'm not really convinced.