Delta Air Lines has agreed to acquire a 49 percent 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 investment in Virgin Atlantic will create a combined network of 31 peak-day round-trip flights across the Atlantic Ocean between the two airlines.
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 CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement.
Sir Richard Branson retains control of Virgin Atlantic with a 51 percent share.
"We have always been known for our innovation," Branson said. "We will retain that independent spirit but move forward in a strengthened partnership with Delta."
Delta wants to acquire the 49 percent stake currently held by Singapore Airlines. The Delta and Virgin Atlantic still need to get antitrust approval from the US Department of Transportation.
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