Virgin and Delta Airlines set to commence commercial venture

Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic are set to commence their commercial venture, sharing revenue and flights between the UK and USA, after receiving antitrust immunity from the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

Accordingly, the two airlines will jointly offer a total of 32 flights a day between the UK and the US starting next spring. These include a new schedule of flights between Heathrow and JFK from March 30, 2014, with seven direct services a day on the route. Three of these will depart Heathrow in the morning, followed by three afternoon departures between 14.00 and 17.35, with another leaving in the evening.

On the return leg, one will depart JFK at 7.40, followed by evening departures every half hour between 18.30 and 20.30, and then two hourly departures until 22.30.

Of the 32 total flights, 24 will operate between Heathrow and popular destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington. The services will be complemented by two daily flights between Newark airport and Heathrow.

In their filing to the DOT, Delta and Virgin Atlantic said nearly 60 percent of the slots at Heathrow were controlled by British Airways and American Airlines partnership. ‘By combining Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow slots and U.K. brand strength with Delta’s powerful US network, the joint venture will offer significant competition in the market and benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic,’ the filing said.

Following the approval, Ed Bastian, Delta’s president said: ‘We are delighted that the Department of Transportation recognises that the immunised partnership offers significant advantages to customers. The freedom to cooperate fully with Virgin Atlantic will initiate a new era of greater competition in the New York to London market where it is much needed. We have a proven record in making joint ventures succeed and we look forward to building our relationship with Virgin Atlantic.’

Craig Kreeger, Virgin’s CEO, added: ‘Today represents a huge opportunity for both Virgin Atlantic’s passengers and our business. Our partnership with Delta means we will be able to offer convenient aligned schedules and a much broader network, giving the best possible travel choices and on board experience to trans-Atlantic passengers.’