Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger thought it was going to be an "easy decision" for the airline to join SkyTeam until he came to appreciate the importance of its existing partnerships, he says.
Speaking at the Future of Air Transport conference in London on 25 November, Kreeger said he was "pretty sure" Virgin Atlantic should join joint venture partner Delta Air Lines in SkyTeam nine months ago, when he arrived as chief, but he is now more cautious.
"The reason that obviously made sense was, it’s a relatively small company," he says. "Having the benefit of a alliance helping to market your services in places where you were small seemed to make sense and was logically a good thing for Virgin Atlantic. Certainly, I went into the role thinking that would be an easy decision. That was before I became aware of the partnerships that Virgin has."
Partnerships with carriers such as Air China, ANA, Singapore Airlines and South African Airways "crossed alliances" and also derived huge benefits for the UK airline, and these could be lost if Virgin Atlantic joined an alliance, said Kreeger.
Joining an alliance is in any case a less urgent priority than making its joint venture with Delta work, says Kreeger.
"Because 60% of revenue and our schedule are in the markets where we are co-ordinating with Delta, that makes the Delta partnership worth more than all of our other partnerships combined, possibly," says Kreeger.
Nevertheless, Kreeger says the airline remains a "natural, effective partner for many other airlines" and is the "belle of the ball" because of its access to London Heathrow.