1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Sir Richard Branson said that a possible tie-up with Air France-KLM to boost its services in Europe and the Middle East “makes sense”.
“We’ll see whether something comes from it,” said Virgin Atlantic’s founder and chairman when asked about the possibility of a tie-up with Air France-KLM during the launch of Virgin’s new domestic service Little Red earlier this week.
“But the most important thing right now is for us to get the Delta deal through,” added Branson. “That’s going through its due process and once that’s happened I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we had some discussions.”
Virgin Atlantic and Delta have this week filed an application for antitrust immunity with the US Department of Transportation, ahead of their proposed joint venture on flights between the US and the UK.
Craig Kreeger, the airline’s new chief executive – who took the helm in February after 27 years at American Airlines – said: “From the UK perspective, it offers a whole new set of destinations and frequencies to places we don’t fly to or fly to infrequently, by connecting our network to Delta’s network in the US.
“Delta is, as of now, the largest airline in the US – in the Americas – and we’re suddenly going to have connections for our customers where they will be able to earn frequent flyer miles in our programme, their corporate relationship with us will apply on to the network that Delta flies, and they’ll have lounge access and enhanced connectivity as we work together with Delta to make that as seamless as possible.
“But equally important for Virgin Atlantic is that from the US perspective we suddenly now have access to Delta’s frequent flyers, Delta’s corporate relationships, Delta’s travel agency relationships, and Delta is really excited about being able to offer our service to their customers, because they think that’s going to take them off other alliances and other airlines and move them on to us and Delta.”
He added: “Delta has been very clear in all of my conversations with them that what they are really excited about is our service to Heathrow, but that it remains Virgin Atlantic service to Heathrow, that it is a product they believe they will be able to sell effectively to their customers.
“For us, that’s a whole new source of potential customers and will also diversify us away from a large reliance on the British economy, which has not been a great thing to be relying upon in the past couple of years.”
Kreeger confirmed that the airline would consider a further joint venture with Air France-KLM – like Delta, a member of the Skyteam alliance.
“What I would say is that our first priority is executing the Delta relationship as excellently [as we can], and at the right time we will evaluate whether Air France-KLM – or, in fact, a broader relationship with Skyteam – makes sense. We haven’t made those decisions yet, nor have we begun the evaluation of them.”