Heathrow flight showdown looms as Delta-Virgin targets NYC route

  • Article by: Mary Jane Credeur and Kari Lundgren
  • Bloomberg News
  • June 24, 2013 - 8:03 PM


Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways will adjust schedules between New York and London, one of the world’s busiest routes for premium travel, to help woo fliers from British Airways and American Airlines.

With Delta’s purchase of a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic completed, the carriers will use targeted advertising to win more business, Craig Kreeger, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said Monday in an interview. Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson will keep his 51 percent stake.

Regulatory approval of the deal would allow an early 2014 start for a transatlantic joint venture able to set timetables and fares and share costs and revenue. The tie-up challenges British Airways and American, which have long controlled more than half of New York-London flying, and United Airlines, which serves Heathrow from Newark, N.J.

“For most of Delta’s corporate customers, this really evens the playing field with American, British Air and United as well,” Helane Becker, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in New York, said Monday.

Takeoff and landing slot times at Heathrow are fixed, although the destination cities can be altered to make a schedule more competitive, Kreeger said. Hypothetically, the carriers could swap a Heathrow-Los Angeles flight into a Heathrow-Kennedy flight if they felt it was more advantageous, he said.

“We have things we can swap, move one for another, to make a schedule work as optimally as you can,” Kreeger said Monday by telephone.

Virgin Atlantic and Delta are “looking hard at Seattle” for new service to Heathrow, Delta President Ed Bastian said.

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