Just seven months after becoming the first American to take the helm of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, Craig Kreeger is hoping its partnership with US carrier Delta Air Lines will bring the British carrier back in the black by 2015, but he has not ruled out further alliances, even with some of the Gulf’s fast-growing airlines.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” the legendary carmaker Henry Ford is often quoted as saying in reference to what makes a successful marriage. As the creator of one of America’s most iconic brands, it’s fair to say he knew what he was talking about.
In the aviation sector this advice certainly rings true as alliances, partnerships and the marriage to old rivals seems to have become the de facto way of doing business. Dubai’s Emirates Airline, the once staunchly independent operator, has cosied up to Qantas. Etihad has joined forces with Air France-KLM and has invested in equity partnerships with a whole host of different carriers. Qatar Airways is this month set to join up with the Oneworld alliance.
Diplomatic relations between Britain and the US may have been shaken by events in Syria in recent weeks, but the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ was solidified recently with the announcement that Delta Air Lines, America’s largest carrier, had bought a minority stake in Virgin Atlantic, the British operator owned by Sir Richard Branson.
In June, the $360m deal was given the stamp of approval by the US Justice Department and the European Commission and late last month it was reported the agreement is on track to receive immunity from US antitrust laws to operate a planned transatlantic joint venture.
The US Department of Transportation said it had tentatively concluded that the alliance, which involves Delta buying a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, would promote competition and would provide benefits to consumers in the North America-United Kingdom market.
“Our big opportunity for change is our relationship with Delta Air Lines,” says Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger, who was appointed in February and is the British carrier’s first American CEO.
“We are still waiting for antitrust approval to begin activities on coordination and we anticipate this will offer a whole new host of codeshare destinations in the United States.
“I think it really gives us clear value in two fundamental ways: for our customers that are here in the UK, or going from points east like Dubai, it offers an array of new destinations in the United States that we can offer to those customers on a very seamless basis. We will have 45 new destinations connecting over JFK that didn’t exist a month ago.
“On the other side of the ocean in the United States, if you combine the Virgin Atlantic service experience with Delta’s strength and distribution in the United States and their frequent flyer base and travel agent relationships, we are very confident that will result in many more customers trying our services and liking them and over time move from our competitors to a combination of Delta and Virgin Atlantic.”
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