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Alitalia joins transatlantic joint venture

An Alitalia plane passes an Air France aircraft on the tarmac of Fiumicino International Airport in Rome, September 25, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files

ROME (Reuters) - Italian carrier Alitalia will join an Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines joint venture that shares revenues and costs on transatlantic routes, giving the alliance access to Europe’s third biggest market.

In a statement on Monday, the airlines said the addition of Alitalia means the venture represents about 26 pct of total transatlantic capacity with annual revenues of over $10 billion.

Alitalia, in which Air France-KLM holds a 25 percent stake, joins as of April 1 as part of an agreement running to until at least March 31, 2022.

Loss-making Alitalia went bankrupt in 2008 after years of struggling with strikes and inefficiencies and was relaunched as a private airline by Italian investors last year.

It had a difficult rebirth, grappling with low occupancy rates and flight delays that prompted a barrage of complaints. But the airline’s performance in the first half of the year showed strong improvement from a year earlier, with revenues rising 10 percent, CEO Rocco Sabelli told a news conference.

He played down speculation that the airline might be forced to raise capital again in the coming months, saying there were no plans to do so. He also denied speculation that Air France-KLM planned to buy the Italian airline.

Reporting by Deepa Babington; editing by Simon Jessop and Louise Heavens