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Is Delta about to buy Virgin Atlantic?

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The Sunday Times ran a long article yesterday which claimed that Delta Airlines of the US is in discussions to take over Virgin Atlantic.

This being aviation, of course, nothing is that simple.  A US airline cannot have majority control of a European airline, under EU rules. 

Delta would therefore buy the 49% of Virgin that is currently owned by Singapore Airlines, whilst providing cash to Air France / KLM to buy and be the legal owner of the 51% stake held by Richard Branson.

Virgin Atlantic 747

Some snippets from the article here (original is behind a paywall so I can’t link):

Delta eyes Virgin Atlantic swoop

The giant American carrier has offered to buy out an Asian investor, paving the way for a possible takeover of Branson’s airline …

Delta Air Lines is understood to have offered to buy Singapore Airlines’ 49% holding in Virgin. If it succeeds, Delta’s European partner, Air France-KLM, may then buy part of Sir Richard Branson’s 51% stake, which would see him relinquish control of the airline for the first time.

Air France-KLM’s involvement is dictated by aviation rules, which say European airlines must be controlled by European nationals. Branson may retain a stake, and would, together with the Franco-Dutch group, hold more than 50%.

The deal would be a watershed for the entrepreneur. He set up Virgin Atlantic in 1984 and it has been instrumental in the rapid expansion of his business empire. Branson has been weighing the airline’s future for several years. Two years ago he appointed Deutsche Bank to examine offers.

Delta and Air France-KLM came close to a deal in February 2011 — The Sunday Times revealed the discussions — but talks broke down over price and Branson’s rights over the Virgin brand.

Aviation industry sources said last week that the two sides were back in negotiations, with Delta having made a direct approach to Singapore Airlines.

The sources cautioned that the talks were at an early stage, and it was not certain a deal would be reached. Singapore paid £600m for its stake in 1999 …..

Delta is America’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, carrying about 160m a year compared to United Airlines’ 140m.  It is part of the Sky Team group along with Air France-KLM. Sky Team is one of the three big commercial alliances that compete for passengers globally. The others are Oneworld, led by BA, American and Qantas, and Star, led by United and Lufthansa and including Singapore Airlines.

Sky Team and Star Alliance are eager to secure a larger presence at Heathrow, one of the world’s key aviation hubs, and the most lucrative. The purchase of Virgin Atlantic would provide that ….

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Virgin’s possible moves into either SkyTeam or Star Alliance.   If this story turns out to be true, it will clearly be SkyTeam, which would be a shame.  Let’s see how things pan out.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (February 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 40,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 40,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (1)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Martyn says:

    I hope this doesn’t happen – being in EDI we’ve been without any Star Alliance flights to LHR ever since BMI went to BA, with Virgin starting a domestic service next year. Would not be happy if this reverted to Skyteam.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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