Delta Hops Into Bed With Virgin Atlantic For $360M Joint Venture

Although both sides were playing coy as recently as a week ago, those with their eyes on the sky business saw this Delta Air Lines/Virgin Atlantic hook-up coming. And as of this morning, they’ve done it — those crazy kids have done it: Delta purchased a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for a cool $360 million, creating a new joint venture between the two companies.

The U.S. carrier is No. 2 domestically, and will likely reap plenty of benefits from the relationship, especially at London’s super busy Heathrow Airport. The Wall Street Journal says Delta snapped up the stake from Singapore Airlines, which had been looking to unload its piece in the company.

Founder Richard Branson will hang on to his controlling 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic, and the company will keep its own brand intact. The two airlines will now cooperate on services between New York and London and passengers will see their frequent-flyer benefits shared across the airlines as well.

Regulators still need to sign on approval line, but the deal will likely be all done by the end of next year.

This combination will allow Delta to compete even more with one of its domestic rivals, American Airlines, which has a partnership with British Airways. Virgin is a major player at Heathrow as the third-largest airline there, with a nice bunch of slots under its control, even as British Airways has almost 50% of the available slots at the airport.

Delta Buys Virgin Atlantic Stake for $360 Million [Wall Street Journal]