Delta Air Lines has agreed to acquire a
49-per-cent share of Virgin Atlantic Airways, creating a joint
venture that will give the US carrier a greater presence in London's
Heathrow airport, the companies said in a joint statement Tuesday.
Delta's 360-million-dollar investment in Virgin Atlantic will create a combined network of 31 round-trip flights across the Atlantic Ocean between Britain and North America during peak flying hours. Virgin Atlantic currently is the biggest long-haul rival to British Airways at London's Heathrow airport.
Passengers would see reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and shared access to both airlines' airport lounges for elite passengers.
"By combining the strengths of our two companies in a joint venture, we can provide customers with a seamless network between North America and the UK," Delta chief executive Richard Anderson said in a statement.
Sir Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Atlantic almost 30 years ago, retains a 51 per cent share of the airline. Virgin Atlantic has operated independently until now.
"We will retain that independent spirit but move forward in a strengthened partnership with Delta," the 62-year-old British billionaire said.
The stake of Virgin Atlantic that Delta plans to buy is currently held by Singapore Airlines.
Atlanta-based Delta and Virgin Atlantic still need to get antitrust approval from the US Department of Transportation. The two airlines said they would seek antitrust immunity from regulators, which would allow them to coordinate schedules and pricing. They could also share costs and revenues from their joint-venture flights.
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