By Shane McGinley
Some analysts dismiss move, claiming the partnership would have little impact in the region
Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways, which last month set up a codesharing agreement after the US carrier bought a 49 percent stake in Richard Branson-owned airline, plan to expand their partnership to include the Middle East in the near future, a source told Arabian Business.
However, some analysts have dismissed the move, saying it will have little impact until both carriers build up a sizeable presence in the region.
The transatlantic codesharing agreement will cover 108 routes across North America and the UK and coincides with Delta acquiring a 49 percent stake in the London-based airline, marking the next step towards a full joint venture between the two carriers.
“This is a strategic investment that enhances Delta’s network with greatly improved access to London Heathrow, the leading marketplace on the trans-Atlantic,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s president.
“As we unite two leading global airline brands in an innovative partnership that focuses on delivering enhanced benefits and services for our customers, we also become a more formidable competitor across the Atlantic,” added Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.
While a source told Arabian Business “there is a long term view to roll the partnership across the entire network” and the Middle East will be added in due course, Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said it would have little impact on the region.
“Personally I don't see how either carrier will really benefit. Virgin has scant presence in the GCC as it is, and US airlines are too frightened to serve the region directly because they know they simply can't compete with the more efficient runnings of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad,” Ahmad said.
“To me, it’s a silly PR fad that is as devoid of substance as Virgin is of routes in the Middle East. Perhaps when US airlines like Delta have the bottle to serve the region by direct flights from the USA, I'd give them credence - as it is, this chatter is worthless,” he added.
At present, Virgin Atlantic flies Dubai to London and Delta flies to Bahrain and Muscat from Amsterdam.
FYI...Delta has operated daily nonstop service (on their own aircraft) between Atlanta and Dubai since 2009 with revenue loads consistently exceeding 90%. The carrier operates the route with a two class Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. Additionally, your article indicates that Delta flies from Amsterdam to Bahrain and Muscat. This is incorrect as Delta has never operated their own aircraft on scheduled service into either of these two cities...perhaps the writer is confusing Delta's codeshare service that's operated by KLM as being actual Delta operated flights. The only other cities in the region that has seen or now enjoys current Delta nonstop service is Tel Aviv (currently daily B747-400 service from JFK and seasonal B777-200ER service from ATL) and also (now suspended) 3-4x weekly nonstop B-777-200ER service to Kuwait City from Atlanta.
As Daryl pointed out, the last paragraph of this article is riddled with mistakes.
Delta flies to Dubai with its own planes; just as Virgin does.
Delta itself does not, nor has it ever, fly to Bahrain or Muscat.
What is happening at the moment is Delta CODESHARING to the GCC via KLM meaning Delta flight numbers BUT you actually fly on a KLM aircraft to the Gulf.