Delta plays down Virgin merger reports

Delta Air Lines has stayed tight-lipped on speculation that it is weighing up a merger with Virgin Atlantic.

This came as Virgin disclosed that had received “a number of lines of enquiries” about potential tie-ups.

The airline stressed that negotiations were at “early stages” and that it was “far too early” to comment further.

Virgin said the approaches came after it hired Deutsche Bank last month to assess growth opportunities in the aviation industry.

It did not comment on reports that US giant Delta – a leader in the SkyTeam alliance – is interested in a merger. Delta declined to comment.

Virgin Atlantic said: “We expect Deutsche Bank’s work to run on for a number of months but have nothing further to add at this stage.”

Sir Richard Branson, who owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic with Singapore Airlines holding 49%, has criticised the merger between British Airways and Iberia and BA’s transatlantic joint business with American Airlines on the grounds that they would increase fares and reduce competition.

Virgin Atlantic is not involved in any of the three big global airline alliances, leading to suggestions that it could be open to joining either SkyTeam or the Lufthansa-United Airlines’ Star Alliance to better compete.

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