Delta and Virgin to team up after stake sale clears

Marion Dakers
DELTA Air Line’s purchase of almost half of Virgin Atlantic completed yesterday, allowing the two carriers to cross-sell tickets from next week.

Delta paid $360m (£233m) to buy Singapore Airlines’ 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic, with Sir Richard Branson retaining his 51 per cent holding.

Ed Bastian, boss of Atlanta-based Delta, said the firms will share flight codes on more than 100 routes, including some of Virgin’s new UK domestic routes.

The EU and the US Department of Justice approved the sale last week, six months after it was first announced.

The airlines will wait until the US transport authorities give the green light before starting a fully-fledged joint venture on transatlantic flights, likely to be in early 2014, they told reporters yesterday.

Virgin Atlantic boss Craig Kreeger said the tie-up is one of several measures the firm hopes will return it to profit in the next financial year, following £70m losses in 2012-13.

“We can stand firm together against the competition and can now offer more destinations, a smoother connecting airport experience and ultimately the best transatlantic onboard experience,” he said.

Both Bastian and Kreeger insisted that the distinctive Virgin Atlantic brand will stay in place, brushing off comments last year from IAG boss Willie Walsh, who bet Branson “a knee to the groin” that the name would disappear within five years.

“The reason we’re investing is we think it’s a wonderful brand,” said Bastian.