(NEWSnet/AP) — Delta Air Lines has signed a partnership agreement with startup Riyadh Air with the goal of operating flights between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the Atlanta-based airline said on Tuesday.

Riyadh Air, which plans to begin passenger flights next summer, is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and is part of the country’s plan to diversify its oil-based economy and boost tourism.

Delta and Riyadh did not give a timetable for beginning flights or financial details about their partnership. Their CEOs said neither airline is taking an ownership stake in the other.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas said they envision selling tickets on each other’s flights — a practice known as codesharing — that requires approval from the U.S. Transportation Department.

They said the partnership could grow into a full-blown joint venture. That step would require immunity from U.S. antitrust laws for the carriers to collaborate on prices and share revenue.

Currently, no U.S. airline flies to Saudi Arabia.

Saudia, the kingdom’s flag carrier, operates nonstop flights between Saudi Arabia and New York, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

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