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Delta, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic Launch New Partnership
What is being billed as the ‘World’s Leading Partnership’ was launched this week by Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Air France. The joint venture (JV) by the four airlines expands on existing JVs between the U.S. carrier and the U.K. and European carriers.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian stated: “Our expanded partnership is a major step forward for all of our airlines as we deliver greater reliability, top travel benefits and leading service that our customers deserve. Today’s launch brings our historic, longstanding collaboration to a new level as we continue to build the partnership of choice across Europe and North America that sets us apart from the rest of the industry.”
The JV will benefit frequent travelers on the airlines by offering up to 341 daily codeshare flights to, from and within North America, the U.K. and Europe. Other figures associated with the JV include a choice of 110 non-stop transatlantic routes; a choice of 11 major hubs across the U.S., U.K. and Europe; and onward connection opportunities serving over 350 destinations.
Virgin Atlantic’s CEO Shai Weiss heralded the benefits of the JV for customers stating: “Customers are at the heart of this expanded joint venture…, where seamless connections, a greater range of flights, unrivalled customer service and increased frequent flyer benefits will reinforce (our) position as the choice passengers most love to fly. One of the pillars of our strategy is successfully collaborating with our partners. Combining our strengths, our network, and our people allows us to achieve more together.”
Delta and Air France-KLM have been in a JV for over a decade and all three are long-time members of the SkyTeam global strategic alliance (GSA). Though Virgin Atlantic is currently not a member of any of the three GSAs they began co-operating with Delta in 2013 and the U.K. and European airlines began code-sharing in 2019. The U.S. carrier has an 8.8 percent stake in the Franco-Dutch airline holding company and owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic.
Air France-KLM Group CEO Benjamin Smith extolled the benefits for his customers and his airlines: “For Air France–KLM, it also means greater access to the U.K. market and especially London Heathrow, the leading global travel market.”
Virgin Atlantic has a share of regional U.K. carrier FlyBe which it sees as a means to feed into its long-haul operation. Though last month the regional carrier sought a deferment of Air Passenger Duty payments to the U.K. government which it received to avoid possible bankruptcy.
Customer benefits will increase from Feb. 13 when ‘loyalty programme members will be able to earn and use miles or enjoy elite benefits for flights on any of the four airlines’ worldwide operations, including a trans-Atlantic trip, intra-Europe hop, or domestic U.S. journey.’
Virgin Atlantics’ press release also advised that more benefits were to come with ‘the launch of more codeshare routes, aligning schedules to reduce connection times and smoothing the airport experience from check-in to baggage claim. Customers will also soon be able to check-in and select their seat through any of the partner airline mobile apps or websites.’
The airlines estimate that the expanded JV will represent approximately 23 percent of total passenger and cargo trans-Atlantic capacity and combined annual revenues of $13 billion.
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