The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved the Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s joint venture by granting antitrust immunity on routes between North America and the U.K.
The DOT’s ruling is confirmation of the partnership’s touted consumer benefits and will allow the carriers to deepen their cooperation, offering more flight choices for travelers on both sides of the Atlantic and in particular improving the travel options for business customers in the New York to London market, Delta said in a statement.
“We are delighted that the Department of Transportation recognizes that the immunized partnership offers significant advantages to customers,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s president. “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.”
In their filing to the DOT, Delta and Virgin Atlantic noted that British Airways and its joint venture partners control nearly 60 percent of the slots at London Heathrow Airport. As a result, the carriers dominate air travel between the U.S. and the U.K, including the New York-London market, the most important business market in the world. By combining Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow slots and U.K. brand strength with Delta’s U.S. network, the joint venture will offer significant competition in the market and benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic, officials further noted.
“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,” said Craig Kreeger, Virgin’s CEO.
The two airlines will operate 32 peak-day round-trip flights between the U.K. and North America, 24 of which will depart from Heathrow Airport. The new JFK-LHR schedule will be available for sale on Oct. 5, 2013, Delta announced.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic will unveil further product enhancements later in the year, appealing to the business customer and improving the travel experience of customers across the trans-Atlantic.