London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update – 4 December 2019

A weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel » Atlantic Update » London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update – 4 December 2019

Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta
Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta

Hello and welcome to London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 GMT.

Air France-KLM & Virgin Atlantic

What is going on between Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic?

There’s been considerable press speculation, confirmed by Virgin Group, that it will retain control of the airline and Air France-KLM will no longer acquire a 31% stake in it.

The background to this is back in 2017 when Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced their attention to operate a combined transatlantic joint-venture, Air France-KLM was to acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic for £220m when the new joint-venture launched. This would have reduced Virgin Group’s ownership to a mere 20%.

This appears to no longer be the case. The way that this has been framed by Virgin Group is that this was their decision and Air France-KLM buying a stake was no longer necessary, given Virgin’s new plans to become a “second flag carrier” at Heathrow if a third runway goes ahead.

This is something of a non-sequitur. Even if Virgin was granted special status on the allocation of new slots at Heathrow, the degree of expansion proposed would require significant injections of capital, which do not appear to be forthcoming from Virgin Group.

(Virgin’s rivals will argue, with some justification, that given its historical unwillingness to expand through slot acquisitions, it has lost any special pleading for different treatment from other incumbent airlines at Heathrow).

The key phrase in Virgin Group’s letter is “subject to contract”. The details do not yet appear to be ironed out with Air France-KLM. Given this is a material transaction, an announcement should be made to Air France-KLM’s shareholders when the details are agreed. And it is to avoid confusion in situations like this that all parties usually agree to issue joint statements simultaneously.

Delta is also holding an annual investor day on Thursday 12 December 2019, and hopefully there’ll be more details of the combined joint-venture.

Update: Air France-KLM has confirmed to La Tribune that it will not acquire a stake in Virgin Atlantic.

Aer Lingus Adds PressReader

Aer Lingus has confirmed that it has joined BA and many other airlines and hotels, in offering free downloads of magazines and newspapers through PressReader.

Like BA, an e-mail will be sent to passengers in advance of their flight. It is recommended that titles are downloaded at home in advance, rather than at the airport or on board the aircraft. More details are available at Aer Lingus.

Also of note this week:

La Guardia airport opened 80 years ago this week. (New York Times Archive)

The New York Times presents a visual history of the Subway map. (New York Times)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

United Airlines has announced an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft.  These are intended to replace existing Boeing 757-200 aircraft on a 1:1 basis.  The aircraft will enter into service from 2024.  United has also indicated that they may be used to serve new destinations in Europe from Newark and Washington Dulles.  United has also deferred the delivery of Airbus A350 aircraft until 2027.

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