The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has approved an application by Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways to create a joint venture on routes between North America and the UK.
Approval of the application means the DOT has granted antitrust immunity for the partnership between Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways on transatlantic routes.
The antitrust immunity will allow the carriers to deepen their cooperation. The two carriers claim this will allow them to offer more flight choices for travelers on both sides of the Atlantic, in particular allowing Delta and Virgin Atlantic Airways to coordinate and combine their schedules in the New York-London market.
This will improve flight choices for business customers in the New York-London market, according to Virgin Atlantic and Delta.
“We are delighted that the Department of Transportation recognizes that the immunized partnership offers significant advantages to customers,” says 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.”
Adds Bastian: “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 nearly 60 per cent of the slots at London Heathrow Airport are controlled by British Airways and its joint venture partners American Airlines, Iberia and Finnair.
As a result, claim Virgin and Delta, BA and its partners 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.
The partners claim that, by combining Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow slots and U.K. brand strength with Delta’s powerful U.S. network, the joint venture will offer significant competition in the market and benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.
“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 transatlantic passengers,” says Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic Airways’ CEO.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic have unveiled a new combined schedule for the New York-London travel market, saying the schedule was designed with business travelers in mind.
The new, harmonized schedule offers a total of nine daily non-stop flights in each direction, including seven flights to and from New York JFK and two flights to and from Newark Liberty International Airport.
From March 30, 2014, Delta and Virgin Atlantic will operate a harmonized JFK-Heathrow schedule which will include departures every 30 minutes during the early evening peak and then hourly until 10:30 p.m.
The two carriers will offer a spread of seven daily flights from London Heathrow Airport (IATA code LHR) to New York JFK, including two late-afternoon and early-evening departures. These services will be complemented by two daily non-stop flights between Newark Liberty International Airport and London Heathrow.
Delta’s and Virgin Atlantic’s harmonized JFK-Heathrow schedule from March 30 will see their first daily flight depart JFK at 7:40 a.m. and reach LHR at 7:40 p.m. the same day, local time. Next is a 6:30 p.m. flight, which is timed to arrive at LHR at 6:50 a.m. the next morning, local time. A 7:00 p.m. flight will follow, landing at Heathrow at 7:20 p.m. the next morning, local time.
Then a 7:30 p.m. flight departs JFK, arriving at LHR at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, local time. An hour later, an 8:30 p.m. departure from JFK is timed to get to LHR at 8:45 a.m. the next morning, local time. The next flight leaves at 9:30 p.m., touching down at LHR at 9:45 a.m. next day, local time. The two carriers’ last JFK-LHR flight of the day will push back from the gate at JFK at 10:30 p.m., landing at LHR at 10:40 a.m. next morning, local time.
The two airlines’ first Heathrow-JFK flights of the day is timed to leave LHR at 9:05 a.m. and arrive at JFK at 11:50 a.m. the same day, local time. Next is a 10:15 a.m. flight, reaching JFK at 1:15 p.m. local time. This is followed by an 11:30 a.m. flight, which is timed to get to JFK at 2:25 p.m. local time.
A 2:00 p.m. flight from LHR is next, touching down at JFK at 4:40 p.m. local time. The two carriers’ next Heathrow-JFK flight leaves at 4 :15 p.m., reaching JFK at 7:05 p.m. local time. A 5:35 p.m. flight from LHR is timed to touch down at JFK at 8:30 p.m. local time and then their last Heathrow-JFK flight of the day leaves LHR at 8:05 p.m. and arrives at JFK at 11:00 p.m.
The two airlines say they will work together to coordinate other schedule and network opportunities. Together Virgin Atlantic and Delta will operate a total of 32 peak daily non-stop flights between North America and the UK, of which 24 will operate between London Heathrow and major U.S. destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic claim their business class offering between the UK and North America uniquely includes forward-facing full flat-bed seats with direct aisle access on every flight. In addition, both airlines will offer a premium economy cabin on their transatlantic services.
The joint Virgin Atlantic-Delta schedule between New York JFK and Heathrow will be available for booking from October 5.