Virgin Atlantic could benefit from Air France KLM network: Delta

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A codeshare between Air France KLM and Virgin Atlantic Airways could be beneficial to rounding out the UK-based carrier’s network, says Delta Air Lines chief revenue officer Glen Hauenstein.

“If you observed that 60% of the traffic in Heathrow actually goes east and south rather than west,” he says during an interview in Atlanta. “I think this creates a really unique opportunity for Virgin, which has never had global network access, to partner with Air France and KLM to cover more of the east.”

He adds that this would “rival British Airways’ offering” at Heathrow.

The comments come as Delta and Virgin Atlantic are preparing to implement their immunised joint venture between the UK and USA in January 2014, following approval by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in September.

Hauenstein says that the airlines are on-track for their joint venture to start on 1 January 2014.

The metal neutral partnership is separate from Delta’s joint venture with Air France KLM and Alitalia. However, the European carriers will coordinate traffic flows across the Atlantic with Delta and Virgin Atlantic.

Despite Hauenstein’s comments, Delta says that there are no immediate plans to implement a codeshare between Air France KLM and Virgin Atlantic.

Connectivity at London Heathrow could pose an issue for a future Virgin-Air France KLM alliance. Virgin Atlantic’s international flights operate from terminal 3 at the airport while the European carriers use terminal 4.

Delta will move its Boston and New York JFK flights at Heathrow to terminal 3 on 2 April 2014 in an effort to address this issue. The airline’s new London-Seattle flight will also operate from terminal 3.

Its remaining flights from London to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul will continue to operate from terminal 4.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic began codesharing in July, after the US carrier bought a 49% equity stake in the UK carrier in June.