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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd is starting discussions with other carriers on partnerships to expand its travel network, and talks with Delta Air Lines Inc could be first, a WestJet spokesman said on Tuesday.
That marks an about-face from general market expectations that the first likely U.S. partner for Canada's No. 2 carrier would be Southwest Airlines Co, the low-cost carrier WestJet originally modeled itself on.
"Delta may be first," WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said in an email.
A planned code-share agreement between WestJet and Southwest was indefinitely put on hold last May when the Dallas-based carrier decided to put its money to other uses during last year's sharp slowdown in air travel.
Code-shares allow carriers to sell tickets to passengers from another airline. This helps them increase revenue while limiting costs as they don't have to service all destinations.
WestJet's newly chosen chief executive, Gregg Saretsky, signaled last week that the airline would make an aggressive push on such deals.
A deal with Delta is more likely now that WestJet is in line to receive five daily slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport, reinstating its Toronto-New York service, the National Post newspaper reported this week.
A code-share deal with Delta could also see WestJet expand its service to Atlanta, Boston, and Washington -- locations where Delta has a strong presence, the paper said.
A Delta spokesman said the airline does not comment on potential industry partnerships.
Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson