WASHINGTON, June 20 Delta Air Lines Inc
won European and U.S. antitrust approval to buy a 49 percent
stake in British airline Virgin Atlantic, antitrust
enforcers in Brussels and Washington said on Thursday.
The U.S. Justice Department and the European Commission,
which is Europe's competition watchdog, both cleared the
proposed transaction. The U.S. Transportation Department must
also approve the joint venture.
The partnership would let both carriers expand at Heathrow,
where constraints on landing slots have limited growth. It also
gives Delta the firepower to attract prized U.S. corporate
travelers as it competes with industry leader United Continental
Delta announced the deal in December, saying the purchase
would allow the U.S. carrier to expand its access to London's
"After a thorough investigation of the competitive effects
of the proposed equity investment and joint venture, the
Antitrust Division concluded that the facts and circumstances
did not warrant further investigation or action," the Justice
Department said in a statement.
Delta and Virgin would cooperate on frequent-flier programs
and share travel lounge amenities.
Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, is operating at close to
full capacity after Britain's coalition government blocked its
expansion in 2010.
Virgin's chief executive, Richard Branson, has said he will
keep his 51 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic.