Delta, Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic launch expanded joint venture

Delta Air Lines on Monday announced the launch of its expanded joint venture partnership with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic.

The single joint venture links together the previous deals Delta had with the airlines on the other side of the Atlantic.

For travelers, it means starting Feb. 13, frequent flier program members can earn or use miles and get flight benefits on any of the four airlines. That means they can reach elite frequent flier status more quickly, according to Delta.

The partner airlines are also aligning their flight schedules to reduce connection times. Travelers will soon be able to check in or choose seats on any of the airlines’ mobile apps or websites, according to Delta.

The partnership covers 110 trans-Atlantic routes, and allows more connections in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom.

The joint venture of the four airlines now controls about 23% of trans-Atlantic flying, with combined revenue in the market of about $13 billion annually.

The U.S. Department of Transportation last year granted antitrust immunity for the deal, which allows the airline partners to coordinate on prices and schedules and to share revenue on flights in the U.S.-Europe market, instead of competing with each other.

Air France had previously announced plans to buy a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic as part of the deal, but no longer plans to. Virgin Atlantic is 51% owned by Virgin Group and 49% owned by Delta.