Delta, Virgin Atlantic, AirFrance-KLM joint venture approved as fight breaks out at AF-KLM


Another corny cabin crew photo from the JV partners, taken at the Upper Class Wing Heathrow

The inevitable approval of another massive immunised joint venture has sailed through the EU competition commissioners office.

This gives the four airlines the right to sell each other’s flights and operate potentially uncompetitive fare structures with each other without fear of prosecution.

Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic and purchased a stake in AF-KLM, the money they received was then used to buy a 31% holding in Virgin Atlantic, effectively giving control to Delta.

The remaining 20% shares in Virgin Atlantic stay with Virgin Group and Richard Branson remains as nominal Chairman, but it’s a paper and publicity exercise to keep his name on board in the critical British market.


This happened on the same day that AF-KLM agreed to sell its 50% stake in Heathrow Cargo Handling to Swissport, and a bizarre fight broke out behind the scenes at AF-KLM.

KLM’s CEO Pieter Elbers and the CEO of AirFrance are subordinates to Group CEO Ben Smith. It appears that Elbers and Smith don’t see eye to eye and his expiring contract was due to end with no renewal.

This prompted the extraordinary intervention of the Dutch Finance Minister publicly backing Elbers, and the KLM unions threatening strike action if Elbers leaves.

Pieter Elbers of AF_KLM

AF-KLM is due to report it’s annual figures and once again, KLM looks as though it will out do its ‘sister’ airline by 3:2 in the performance stakes.

The AF-KLM saga has long been seen as a cultural, financial and business mis-match. KLM would, it’s largely accepted, have been better off with IAG, and the two halves have never worked well together. But it’s too late for that now, and KLM consistently outperforms Air France on nearly every metric, which the larger airline seems to permanently resent.