Delta and Virgin Atlantic have filed an application for antitrust immunity with the US department of transportation (DOT), ahead of their proposed joint venture on flights between North America and the UK.
The application has been described as a “significant milestone” by both carriers as they seek to establish a transatlantic joint venture to compete with British Airways and American Airlines.
In the filing the carriers highlight “that nearly 60 per cent of the slots at London Heathrow airport are controlled by the American Airlines/British Airways joint venture which, as a result, dominates air travel between the US and the UK, including the New York-London market, which is the most important business market in the world,” according to a statement from Delta.
Virgin Atlantic’s new chief executive Craig Keener said, “Today’s filing for antitrust immunity marks the next step towards the full implementation of this joint venture between two great airline brands […] We are confident that the DOT will recognize this consumer benefit.”
Under the proposed joint venture, Delta and Virgin Atlantic would coordinate schedules, network planning, pricing and sales between North America and the UK.
The two carriers would operate a total of 31 daily round trip flights between the UK and North America, 23 of which would operate at London Heathrow. The airlines also plan to implement codesharing, reciprocal frequent flier benefits and shared lounge access.
The carriers are also seeking antitrust immunity for five-way coordination on UK-US traffic flows so that Delta can continue to effectively operate its existing joint venture with European airlines Air France, KLM and Alitalia, alongside this proposed agreement with Virgin.
If antitrust immunity is approved Delta has revealed that it plans to begin a new nonstop service between Heathrow and Seattle. Also, according to a report from airlineroute.net, British Airways is preparing to increase its Heathrow to Seattle operation from seven to ten weekly from October 27 this year. British Airways has confirmed this with Business Traveller.
Delta purchased a 49 per cent share in Virgin Atlantic in December last year (see online news December 11, 2012).
Report by Scott Carey