Today, Delta Airlines announced it would buy a $360 million stake in Virgin Atlantic from Singapore Airlines; the amount represents 49% of the sexy Richard Branson-founded airline. The NY Times explains, "The deal will provide Delta with more access to Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s busiest hubs, where takeoff and landing rights are limited because of high demand and tight capacity. New York, where all major airlines are battling to attract high-paying passengers, is the top international destination from Heathrow."
The Financial Times points out, "Virgin has an estimated 21 daily flights out of Heathrow, with 12 going to the US. Delta, the second-largest US airline by revenue, has eight daily flights from Heathrow to the US." Delta only has 0.3% of slots (takeoff and landing rights) at Heathrow, while Virgin has 3.3%; British Airways has 53%.
Additionally, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, "Delta and Virgin Atlantic will also provide reciprocal frequent flier benefits, and allow elite passengers to use each other’s airport lounges. "
Richard Branson and his Virgin Group retains control of Virgin. Branson is excited about the deal, although he's been more preoccupied with a bet with British Airways head Willie Walsh. Walsh claimed that the Virgin brand would disappear, so Branson bet him $1.6 million that Virgin would still be around in five years, with the money going to the winning side's staff. Walsh suggested that the loser instead take a knee to the groin, which Branson accepted (adding the loser should also donate $1.6 million to charity).