By Samson Echenim
European mega carriers, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic and United States leading airline, Delta Airlines have unveiled an expanded joint venture worth $13 billion to offer a more competitive choice for travellers flying between Europe, the UK and North America.
The airlines said the new partnership would provide customers with more convenient flight schedules and a shared goal of ensuring a smooth and consistent travel experience, whichever airline they fly.
The partnership also provides the flexibility to book flights on any of the four carriers through their respective mobile apps, websites, or via travel agents. Customers will enjoy award-winning service, top-tier premium cabin products and complimentary food, drink and seat-back in-flight entertainment in all cabins on all trans-Atlantic flights.
Enhanced customer benefits starting from 13 February mean that loyalty programme members will be able to earn and use miles or enjoy elite benefits for flights on any of the four airlines’ worldwide operations, including a trans-Atlantic trip, intra-Europe hops, or domestic U.S. journey, offering more opportunities to quickly move through loyalty tiers and reach a higher status. Eligible Elite loyalty programme members can also enjoy priority boarding and relax in over 100 airport lounges when travelling internationally.
Other highlights of the JV include: up to 341 peak daily trans-Atlantic services, covering the top 10 routes on a nonstop basis; onward connections to 238 cities in North America, 98 in continental Europe and 16 in the UK as well as a choice of 110 nonstop trans-Atlantic routes.
The enhanced network is also fully available to cargo customers and is built around the carriers’ hubs in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York-JFK, Paris, Seattle and Salt Lake City. It creates convenient nonstop or one-stop connections to every corner of North America, Europe and the U.K.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said: “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.”
The customer benefits effective this month are just the start, with more initiatives being rolled out later this year such as the launch of more codeshare routes, aligning schedules to reduce connection times and smoothing the airport experience from check-in to baggage claim. Customers will also soon be able to check-in and select their seat through any of the partner airline mobile apps or websites.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian commented: “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, longstanding 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.”
“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,” said Air France-KLM Group CEO Benjamin Smith. “For Air France–KLM, it also means greater access to the U.K. market and especially London Heathrow, the leading global travel market.”