Virgin Atlantic’s US shareholder Delta Air Lines is taking a minority stake in South American carrier LATAM for $1.9 billion.

The deal for a 20% shareholding will give Atlanta-based Delta the leading position in five of the top six Latin American markets from the US.

The two airlines will serve 435 destinations worldwide and expect to carry more passengers between North America and Latin America than any other partnership.

The alliance builds on links to Latin America through a tie-in between Delta and Aeromexico.

Delta will invest $350 million on top of the $1.9 billion to support the establishment of the strategic partnership.

The US airline will acquire four Airbus A350s from LATAM and has agreed to assume LATAM’s commitment to purchase ten additional A350s to be delivered between 2020 and 2025.

The financial injection will improve free cash flow generation at LATM and cut forecast debt by more than $2 billion by 2025.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: “This transformative partnership with LATAM will bring together our leading global brands, enabling us to provide the very best service and reliability for travellers to, from and throughout the Americas.

“Our people, customers, owners and communities will all benefit from this exciting platform for future growth.”

LATAM CEO Enrique Cueto Plaza added: “This alliance with Delta strengthens our company and enhances our leadership in Latin America by providing the best connectivity through our highly complementary route networks.

“We look forward to working alongside one of the world’s best airlines to enhance the travel experience for our passengers.”