Delta Air Lines has dismissed the suggestion that it runs Virgin Atlantic, with chief executive Ed Bastian insisting: “We paid for that brand to stand alone.”
International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh told a CAPA airline leaders’ summit in Dublin in May: “Virgin Atlantic is controlled by Delta. Delta has a 49% stake, but it’s clear Delta controls Virgin Atlantic and leads the joint venture. That is the reality.”
But speaking in Atlantic, Bastion said: “Virgin Atlantic is a great brand. Delta is not in control of Virgin Atlantic. We’re not in an economic position to control that airline.
“Of course, we provide our thoughts on how to enhance the company. But they provide their thoughts to us. Our Sky lounges reflect that. They look very like a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.”
Bastian added: “I don’t follow what he [Walsh] says.”
Delta acquired 49% of Virgin Atlantic in 2013. The US carrier deepened its partnership with Air France-KLM in July by taking a 10% stake in the European group and a place on its board, with Air France-KLM taking a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic in return.
Bastion said: “We have very strong business partners in Europe. We were invited into the Air France-KLM business. We will be much more aligned [following the deal].
“We already have a commercial arrangement. [Now] we’ll have a director on the board. It will make them think about Delta when they are investing and we’ll be thinking about them.”
He added: “The European market is really important to Delta. It’s about 20% of our business.”
However, Bastian dismissed the idea that Delta might be involved in any deal for SkyTeam partner Alitalia, which entered administration in May.
Asked if Delta could invest in the carrier, he said firmly “No” adding: “I don’t know what the end result will be of Alitalia.”