Air France/KLM, Delta Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic will start joint operations this month, implementing a strategy that was laid out in their May 2018 agreement. The combined airlines promise a smooth and consistent travel experience, with the focus on transatlantic routes, it was announced on February 3.
The airlines say their flight schedules have been integrated more efficiently to give travelers better connections from a number of hubs. In Europe, they are Amsterdam, Paris CdG, and London Heathrow. In the US, the hubs are New York JFK, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.
Travelers departing from Europe are offered 238 onward connections in North America, while those arriving in Europe are offered 98 connections and 16 to or in the UK.
The ‘joint venture airlines’ cover 110 non-stop transatlantic routes or 341 daily services across the pond. This also benefits cargo operations, with the four airlines gaining a combined transatlantic market share of 23 percent and a capacity of 600.000 tonnes.
Later in 2020, the number of codeshare flights will increase and connections will be further improved to offer an almost seamless experience, as KLM says.
The airlines’ loyalty programs and booking systems (including the use of apps) will be integrated from February 13. Benefits include access to airline lounges at various airports.
JV has a ten-year history
The JV has a long history that dates back to 2009 when Air France/KLM and Delta started joint operations between Europe and the US. Delta and Virgin began their transatlantic joint venture in 2013. The four-airline joint venture was announced in May 2018 and saw first codeshares in 2019. In November 2019, the JV received the approval of the US Department of Transportation.
Each airline will have a 33,3 percent share in the JV, with an executive committee of three as well as a management committee.
The initial plan for Air France/KLM to purchase a 31 percent share into Virgin was dropped last December, with Virgin retaining 51 percent and Delta the remaining 49 percent.
Joint venture should generate 13 billion in revenues
The airline combination expects the JV will generate combined revenues of $13 billion, but putting this into context is difficult as numbers of the pre-JV era are diffuse. Each airline sees benefits of the new structure, with Delta and Virgin expecting a lot from improved services and a better network and Air France/KLM hoping to have easier access to Heathrow and Brexit UK.
Virgin’s success of the JV is in part dependent on the survival plan of UK regional airline Flybe. The airline was purchased by a consortium including Virgin in 2019 and to be rebranded Virgin Connect, acting as a feeder airline to Virgin Atlantic. Flybe almost collapsed this January under a financial burden. The government saved the airline by deferring air passenger duty for the coming three years, but this has come under a lot of criticism from others including Ryanair.