Virgin Atlantic appears to be edging ever closer to signing up with the SkyTeam airline alliance, with its chief commercial officer saying that it will “probably make sense” for Virgin to join SkyTeam.
“Being able to compete with BA-AA is pretty important to us" Virgin COO Julie Southern told The Financial Times on Sunday. "We will look at SkyTeam, and I suspect in due course you may see us joining SkyTeam, but we’ll only do it if it makes economic sense to the business.”
While Virgin Atlantic has formed its own UK-US links through last December's decision to see Delta Air Lines take over Singapore Airline's 49% stake in Virgin, this still lacks the full muscle of a global alliance, such as British Airways and American Airlines enjoy through their membership of oneworld.
"As (other airlines) join together, it’s not that we wouldn’t have had a future, but it would have been a more and more challenged future" Southern suggests.
PREVIOUS | Virgin Atlantic could sign onto the SkyTeam airline alliance following the overnight purchase of 49% of Sir Richard Branson's baby by US carrier Delta, one of the founding members of SkyTeam.
Although Branson has traditionally been reticent to join an alliance, he recently indicated that this may become a matter of survival.
"Virgin Atlantic has always enjoyed its independence, but since pretty well every competitor that we have has an alliance I think we have finally decided that to survive we need to have an alliance," Branson told Bloomberg Television in October, tipping the announcement was likely to come within the “next three to four months."
Speculation immediately fell on both the Star Alliance and SkyTeam camps, given that oneworld is home to his bête noire British Airways.
One factor in Star's favour was that then co-owner of Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, belongs to the Star family.
But Delta's planned purchase of the entire SQ stake – a deal valued at US$360 million – obviously changes that dynamic.
Under the new Delta-Virgin Atlantic alliance travellers on both airlines will automatically enjoy reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, such as earn-and-burn rights on both airlines plus access to Delta Sky Club and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounges.
Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyers won't be left in the lurch, however, with SQ promising in a media statement that "commercial arrangements between Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, encompassing codesharing, frequent-flyer programme ties and reciprocal lounge access, are expected to remain in place after the divestment."
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