Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways received final approval from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement an immunised joint venture across the Atlantic today.
The alliance covers all flights operated by the carriers between the UK and USA from 1 January 2014, says Atlanta-based Delta. It will supplement the codeshare that the airlines began on 3 July.
“We are delighted that the Department of Transportation recognises that the immunised partnership offers significant advantages to customers,” says Ed Bastian, president of Delta, in a statement. “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.”
The carriers will implement a harmonised schedule with seven daily flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International and London Heathrow airports on 30 March 2014. They will also offer two daily flights between Newark Liberty International and Heathrow.
American Airlines and British Airways dominate the New York-London route with their existing immunised joint venture between Europe and the USA.
Craig Kreeger, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, says: “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.”
Delta and Virgin Atlantic operate 32 peak daily flights between the two countries. Delta plans to launch a new daily nonstop between Seattle and London Heathrow under the joint venture from 29 March 2014.
The SkyTeam Alliance member’s existing transatlantic joint venture partners Air France, Alitalia and KLM will coordinate on traffic flows across the ocean with the new Delta-Virgin Atlantic alliance.
The DOT tentatively approved the joint venture on 30 August and the European Commission granted immunity in June.
Delta bought a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic as a prerequisite to the immunised partnership in June.