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For now, just a wish list, but European airlines do have to consider banding up, with their own dicey economies and threat of long haul Gulf airlines taking over profitable routes.

Virgin Atlantic is planning to hold talks over a possible joint venture with Air France-KLM and Alitalia which would see Sir Richard Branson’s airline offer more routes to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Julie Southern, Virgin’s chief commercial officer, said: “We are very interested in exploring what further cooperation opportunities there are, particularly with Air France-KLM and Alitalia.”

However, she added that “no detailed discussions” have taken place yet, with talks due to take place in the “coming months”.

The airline is already planning a joint venture with Delta Air Lines this year in an attempt to challenge British Airways’ dominance of the London to New York market.

It is thought that a similar deal could be made between Virgin and Air France-KLM to open up more flights to Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Italian airline Alitalia could also be involved in the tie-up.

Virgin is considering altering its business model and may be willing to sacrifice its independence as it looks to return to profitability.

Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Air France-KLM’s chief executive, said the Franco-Dutch group may consider a joint venture with Virgin on Asian and African routes.

Delta, which is planning to take a 49pc stake in Virgin Atlantic, already has a partnership with Air France-KLM and Alitalia on transatlantic routes. The enlarged group are thought to be considering asking regulators if they can all work together on the pricing and marketing of flights between Europe and the US.

Last year, rumours of the tie-up with Delta prompted BA chief executive Willie Walsh to predict such a deal would lead to the Virgin brand disappearing within five years.

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Tags: air france/klm, alitalia, alliances, delta air lines, virgin atlantic

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