Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. have received merger clearance from the EU Commission and U.S Department of Justice.
The approval has cleared the way for Delta Air Lines to buy from Singapore Airlines a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic, marking the next step towards a full joint venture between the two carriers.
Virgin Atlantic Airways and Delta have also detailed a codeshare agreement across 108 routes. The two carriers say the agreement will offer customers seamless connections to 66 destinations throughout North America and the U.K.
Delta will place its code on 17 Virgin Atlantic routes, including the recently launched Little Red domestic UK services connecting London Heathrow Airport with Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.
Virgin Atlantic will place its code on 91 Delta routes, including transatlantic and domestic U.S. routes.
The agreement means Virgin Atlantic customers will now have access to a large network of connecting North American destinations, while Delta customers will gain an additional six daily flights between London and New York.
Delta’s SkyMiles and Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club loyalty programs will offer up to 125 per cent in tier bonus mileage points to frequent fliers on all Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights, not just those within the codeshare agreement.
There will be reciprocal Delta Sky Club and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse access at applicable airports for Upper Class and BusinessElite passengers and Flying Club Gold members and SkyMiles Platinum and Diamond members.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and Flying Club Gold members, as well as Delta BusinessElite and SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond members, will also have access to priority check-in, boarding, baggage handling and additional baggage allowance on all Virgin Atlantic-operated and Delta-operated flights worldwide, not just those within the codeshare agreement.
The two airlines announced their intention to enter into a joint venture agreement in December 2012. Last week unconditional merger clearance was granted by the European Commission and the U.S Department of Justice closed its review of the transaction.
On June 24, Delta successfully completed its acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic, buying the shares from previous holder Singapore Airlines.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently reviewing the parties’ application for antitrust immunity relating to the two airlines’ proposed joint venture on non-stop routes between the U.S. and the UK.
Delta and Virgin expect the DOT to complete this review in the third quarter of 2013. If the DOT approves the joint venture, the carriers expect to put the Delta/Virgin Atlantic joint venture into effect in the first quarter of 2014.
Reciprocal codesharing under the new Delta-Virgin Atlantic agreement begins on July 3. Flights can be booked from June 29.
In the future, say the two airlines, corporate and travel agency customers of both will benefit from an aligned sales effort on both sides of the Atlantic.
Full details of the codeshare announcement can be found at www.virgin-atlantic.com and www.delta.com.