The partnership was formed in January, after Delta – the third biggest global airline – bought Singapore Air’s stake in Virgin Atlantic for $360m. From March the two aligned their schedules to sell transatlantic flights to and from London Heathrow.
The companies hope the increased distribution of flights as well as leveraging the two airlines’ brand awareness in their respective home markets through joint marketing will help the two mount a challenge to the dominance of airlines such as British Airways and American Airlines in the competitive transatlantic flight market.
British Airways operates the most flights out of Heathrow, with a market share of 51 per cent of air traffic movements in a typical 2014 summer week, according to Airport Coordination Limited. The Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines joint venture operates 5 per cent of the total flights out of the airport, while American Airlines has a 2 per cent share.
To raise awareness of the Virgin Atlantic and Delta partnership the two companies have launched experiential pop-up spaces outside the New York Stock Exchange and in London’s Canary Wharf, showcasing business class cabins and cabin crew, Virgin Atlantic check in desk staff’s Google Glass technology and offering visitors the chance to trial a flight simulator alongside a Delta pilot.
The experiential push is the first example of a range of upcoming marketing activity across targeted print and digital media using the strapline “great minds fly alike”, designed to raise awareness of the joint venture amongst premium and business travellers.
Reuben Arnold, Virgin Atlantic brand and customer experience director, explains that while the two brands have different personalities – Delta in “Southern hospitality” and Virgin Atlantic in its “cheeky” tone of voice – the marketing strategy has been designed to showcase their similarities: a focus on the future of flying and customer service.
He adds: “We were not seeking to create a third brand in that bland space in the middle, we wanted to make the partnership stand for our customers rather than it just being a marriage of convenience, because most alliances are about airlines coming together to make money.
“Putting the customer first is our point of differentiation. We wanted to get away from that traditional [marketing, which puts partners’] tail fins next to teach other and talk more about what this partnership means in terms of experience and convenience.”
Other airline alliances and mergers include the 26 airline Star Alliance – which includes Lufthansa and United Airlines – , the merger of US Airways and American Airlines in 2013 to create the American Airlines Group and IAG, which was formed by the merger of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia.