Virgin Atlantic to Join an Alliance Soon

Sep 21, 2011

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In a recent interview with Forbes magazine , Sir Richard Branson stated that Virgin would be joining an alliance in the near future. As a London based carrier, they’d obviously be competing with British Airways, so Oneworld is out – but that leaves Star Alliance and Skyteam.

On one hand Star Alliance makes a lot of sense – Singapore Airlines currently holds a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic and Virgin partners with a number of Star Alliance partners like Continental. Virgin has also expressed interest in buying Star Alliance carrier bmi and Star Alliance is the biggest alliance with 27 current members.

On the other hand, Delta and Skyteam partners Air France and KLM do a huge amount of transatlantic traffic and could give a huge amount of connecting traffic to Virgin’s operations, which service:
York (Newark and JFK), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Miami, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai, Lagos, Sydney, Dubai, Chicago, Nairobi and Mauritius. Virgin operates services from Gatwick to Orlando, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Las Vegas, Grenada, Tobago, Cuba and Jamaica (Kingston and Montego Bay). Virgin Atlantic also operates a service from Manchester to Orlando, Barbados and St Lucia.

While I selfishly hope that Virgin joins Skyteam, I think it makes more sense to join Star Alliance. Virgin overlaps with Delta on huge routes like JFK and Miami to London, whereas Star Alliance has huge gaps on those routes (Continental services EWR to LHR, but JFK has no London service). If I had to bet money, I’d say Star Alliance, but something tells me Sir Branson may have a couple tricks up his sleeve – like creating his own alliance of unique carriers.

Hat tip to TPG reader Tanu!
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