On Friday, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways reacted positively to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to grant their joint venture antitrust immunity on routes between North America and the U.K.
The DOT cited consumer benefits as the primary reason for its decision. In their DOT filing, Delta and Virgin pointed out British Airways and its joint venture partners control nearly 60 percent of Heathrow’s slots. As a combination of Virgin's Heathrow slots and U.K. brand strength with Delta's powerful U.S. network, the joint venture will offer significant competition in the market and improve service.
“Our partnership with Delta means we will be able to offer convenient aligned schedules and a much broader network, giving the best possible travel choices and on board experience to trans-Atlantic passengers,” said Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic’s president and CEO.
Ed Bastian, Delta's president, add: “The freedom to cooperate fully with Virgin Atlantic will initiate a new era of greater competition in the New York to London market -- where it is much needed.”
The airlines unveiled a new schedule on the New York to London air market offering a total of nine daily nonstop flights. Beginning March 30, Delta and Virgin will operate a harmonized schedule between New York-JFK and London Heathrow featuring seven daily nonstop services in convenient time slots.
The new schedule will include departures every 30 minutes during the early evening peak and then hourly until 10:30 p.m. from JFK to Heathrow and a spread of seven daily flights from London to New York, including two late afternoon and early evening departures. These services will be complemented by two daily nonstop flights between Newark’s Liberty International and Heathrow.
Combined, the two airlines will operate a total of 32 peak daily nonstop flights between North America and the U.K. of which 24 flights will operate between Heathrow and such destinations as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington. Delta and Virgin promise to introduce further product enhancements later in the year.