ATLANTA, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. airline Delta and Britain's Virgin Atlantic said Tuesday they had agreed to a partnership that includes Delta buying 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic.
Touting the benefits the deal would have for customers, like reciprocal frequent flier benefits and airport lounge privileges, Delta said in a statement that Richard Branson would hold onto his 51 percent share of Virgin Atlantic, while Delta would buy its 49 percent from Singapore Airlines for $360 million.
Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate its own brand under its own operating certificate, the statement said.
Delta said the deal would "create an expanded trans-Atlantic network and enhance competition between the U.K. and North America." However, the airlines said they expected the transaction would be reviewed by antitrust agencies in the United States and the European Union.
"This is an exciting day in Virgin Atlantic history. It signals the start of a new era of expansion, financial growth and many opportunities for our customers and our business. I truly look forward to the possibilities our partnership with Delta will offer," said Branson, who is also Virgin Atlantic's president.
"We have always been known for our innovation and service and have punched above our weight for 28 years. That is why our customers love us so much," he said pledging his upstart airline "will retain that independent spirit but move forward in a strengthened partnership with Delta."