Delta: Virgin deal will make us number one across Atlantic

Delta: Virgin deal will make us number one across Atlantic

Delta Airlines has hailed its deal with Virgin Atlantic as "the last piece of the puzzle in being number one across the Atlantic".

The airline will see a new hub terminal at New York JFK open today and later this year, pending regulatory clearance, should establish a transatlantic joint venture with Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow.

The US carrier announced its purchase of  Singapore Airlines' 49% stake in Virgin in December.

Delta chief executive Richard Anderson said: "Delta is leading the US [airline] industry revival."

Speaking ahead of the opening of the $1.4-billion Terminal 4 at New York JFK, he added: "This is the last piece of the puzzle for Delta in being number one across the Atlantic.

Anderson ruled out Delta moving back into London Gatwick. He said: "Delta is focused on Heathrow and has no plans at Gatwick."

However, he added: "Once we receive anti-trust immunity for the joint venture with Virgin we wiil undertake detailed analysis of whether we have the very best network [from the UK]."

Anderson rejected a suggestion that Delta might discuss a partnership with Etihad, despite talks between Delta Skyteam partner Alitalia and the Abu Dhabi-based carrier.

He said: "We are not in any discussions about a partnership with Etihad."

Instead, he hit out at the level of government support for leading Middle East carriers.

Anderson said: "These are state-owned airlines. You are not dealing with airlines, with companies - they are governments.

"We believe we need a level playing field, and where we are on a level playing field we will succeed."

Delta senior vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Perry Cantarutti, said: "The joint venture with Virgin Atlantic will make us a credible competitor with British Airways and American [from Heathrow]."

Cantarutti said: "We felt we didn't have enough offering from London. There is demand for a greater range of departure times. That is what motivated our transaction with Virgin."

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