AMR Signs Colombia Codeshare so US Airways Does Too

Tickers in this article: AAMRQ.PK DAL JBLU LCC UAL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- You sign a codeshare agreement with a Colombian carrier, we sign a codeshare agreement with a Colombian carrier.

That's the way it looks as American (AAMRQ.PK) and US Airways (LCC) have both announced new codeshare agreements with Colombian carriers this week.

At the same time as they have been pursuing separate agreements with Colombian partners, the two carriers are working on the details of a potential merger including four-way negotiations aimed at crafting a contract between the two airlines and their two pilot groups.

On Monday, American said it signed new codeshare agreements with two South American carriers, Bogota-based LAN Colombia and Sao Paulo-based Tam, both operated by Santiago-based Latam Airlines Group .

LAN, with affiliates in five countries, is a long-time member of OneWorld, which includes American. LAN acquired the Colombian carrier Aires in 2010.

"This is part of our strategy to strengthen our network and our partnerships," said Virasb Vahidi, American chief commercial officer, in an interview. "We have said all along we want to create a premier network that caters to our best customers and grows in places where the economy is growing."

On Wednesday, US Airways said it signed a codeshare agreement with Bogota-based Avianca and also expanded its codeshare agreement with Avianca partner TACA. Both are subsidies of AviancaTaca Holdings and members of the Star Alliance, which includes US Airways.

US Airways passengers will be able to connect to Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena and Medellin on Avianca in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and New York, while Avianca passengers can connect to US Airways flights from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and New York Kennedy. US Airways' expanded codeshare with TACA will enable connections in Chicago for passengers on both airlines.

US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said the codeshare agreement has been "in the works for some time" and has nothing to do with American. In 2008, regulators rejected a US Airways application for the right to fly Charlotte/Bogota.

In general, U.S. carriers continue to expand into Latin America, with new route announcements this week by JetBlue (JBLU) , which added Medellin to its route network with a Fort Lauderdale route starting in June, and United(United) , which announced new service to Guatemala City and San Jose, Costa Rica starting in April.

"Colombia is a strong traffic region," said aviation consultant Robert Mann. "Colombia and Latin America are going to be battle grounds for the airlines for the next couple of years."

American remains by far the strongest carrier in Latin America, and it is affiliated with LATAM, the largest Latin America-based airline group. Delta (DAL) "is trying to make inroads and United will eventually figure out that they need to make greater inroads," Mann said. "American and US Airways are just bulking up." US Airways also flies Charlotte-Rio and will add Charlotte-Sao Paulo next year.