An expanded joint venture between Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Air France and KLM has gone live today, aiming to give passengers access to a wider network of routes and loyalty options between Europe, the UK and North America.

The airlines said the new partnership gives customers access to more convenient schedules with up to 341 peak daily transatlantic flights covering the top ten routes on a non-stop basis. The combined network also includes onward connections to 238 cities in North America, 98 in continental Europe and 16 in the UK.

Passengers can book flights on any of the four carriers through their respective mobile apps, websites, or via travel agents.

In addition, starting from 13 February, the partners will allow loyalty members to earn and use miles or take advantage of elite benefits for flights on any of the four airlines’ worldwide networks. Eligible members will also have access to priority boarding and more than 100 airport lounges.

The enhanced route network is also available to cargo customers of the four airlines, built around hubs in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Heathrow, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York-JFK, Paris, Seattle and Salt Lake City.

Further passenger initiatives are due to be rolled out later this year, including the launch of more codeshare routes, aligning schedules to reduce connection times and “smoothing the airport experience from check-in to baggage claim”.

The expanded joint venture comes after Air France KLM was given regulatory approval to buy a 31 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic. Delta owns a 49 per cent stake in the airline, while the Virgin Group owns the remaining 20 per cent.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic are preparing to grow their combined transatlantic route network through an increased frequency on JFK-Heathrow flights, more capacity on Delta’s JFK and Boston services, more Virgin Atlantic flights from Los Angeles and Seattle to Heathrow and the addition of up to 18 daily flights from Gatwick due to start in May.

Virgin Atlantic has also recently put forward ambitious growth plans, including the aim to acquire enough runway slots at an expanded Heathrow to become the airport’s second flag carrier with an additional 84 destinations, competing with British Airways owner International Airlines Group.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss commented: “Customers are at the heart of this expanded joint venture with our partners Delta, Air France and KLM, where seamless connections, a greater range of flights, unrivalled customer service and increased frequent flyer benefits will reinforce its position as the choice passengers most love to fly. One of the pillars of our strategy is successfully collaborating with our partners. Combining our strengths, our network and our people allows us to achieve more together.”

Delta chief Ed Bastian added: “Our expanded partnership is a major step forward for all of our airlines as we deliver greater reliability, top travel benefits and leading service that our customers deserve. Today’s launch brings our historic, long-standing collaboration to a new level as we continue to build the partnership of choice across Europe and North America that sets us apart from the rest of the industry.”

Air France KLM CEO Benjamin Smith said: “Ten years after starting our joint venture with Delta, this new agreement is a major milestone that will even further reinforce our presence on the Atlantic, by allowing our passengers the choice between four major airlines combining their network for the benefit of our customers. For Air France KLM, it also means greater access to the UK market and especially London Heathrow, the leading global travel market.”

airfranceklm.com; delta.com; virginatlantic.com

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