Australia's competition watchdog gave initial approval on Monday to a joint venture between local airline Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd and Delta Air Lines for flights between Australia and the United States.

The joint venture is likely to assist Virgin Blue and Delta to compete more effectively against the incumbents on the routes, Qantas and United Airlines, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement on Monday.

(Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Michael Perry)