Transport Airlines

What a strategic alliance of Delta and Virgin Atlantic means for business travelers

@SamShankman

Dec 11, 2012 2:26 pm

Skift Take

The joint venture will have less of an impact on travelers than that of a full merger, but frequent flyers and premier passengers will reap the best benefits between shared lounges and mile points.

— Samantha Shankman

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Richard Moross  / Flickr.com

The Virgin Clubhouse at London Heathrow. Richard Moross / Flickr.com


Delta announced it’s acquisition of Singapore Airlines’ 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic this morning. The investment will allow Delta to significantly increase its service at London Heathrow, especially welcome news for Delta business travelers that visit the UK for work.

Passengers shouldn’t expect any changes until the proposed joint venture gains approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the European Union in late 2013. When the expected approval does come through, here are some of the benefits that business travelers can expect from the joint venture:

Improved flight availability

Delta currently only operates 10 round-trip flights between the UK and North America, while Virgin operates 21. Together the airlines will run 31 peak-day round-trip flights between the U.K. and North America, 23 of which will land and depart from Heathrow Airport. A Delta spokesperson tells Skift that additional flights may be added in the future.

The partnership might also help passengers in the event of a flight cancellation. George Hobica, found of Airfarewatchdog, suggests that the two airlines might work more closely in re-accomodating passengers in the event of a  flight irregularity.

Frequent Flier Miles

Virgin Atlantic and Delta customers will be able to earn and redeem miles across both Delta’s SkyMiles program and Virgin Atlantic’s FlyingClub frequent flyer programs.

At the airport

Premium customers of both airlines will now be able to visit the Delta Sky Club or Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse airport lounges. The Virgin lounges have a reputation for being swankier and better designed than Delta’s more traditional clubhouses.

In-flight experience

Both carriers offer in-flight video at every economy seat and complimentary drinks and meals. Both airlines offer fully flat-bed seats in the business class on transatlantic flights so passengers won’t have to give up the luxury on either airline.

Delta charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. Virgin allows flyers’ first bag to be checked for free and charges $60 for the second.

Alliance

Virgin Alliance has resisted joining an alliance so far, but the clear choice would be SkyTeam should Virgin decide to join one. Delta is a member of SkyTeam and the alliance would give Virgin flyers access to the entire network.

One Virgin representative says, “While Virgin Atlantic membership in SkyTeam may be possible in the future, it is not part of today’s announcement.”

Virgin’s archenemy British Airways is a member of oneworld.

Airfare

Unfortunately for flyers, there is likely to be little impact on the airfare.

Hobica tells Skift, “I can’t imagine that this will have a downward effect on trans-Atlantic airfares, which have remained quite high over the last few years. In general, these semi-mergers tend not be good news for airfares.”

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