Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday it is purchasing a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic and will invest $360 million in the British carrier.
The Atlanta-based carrier said it is buying the stake that is currently owned by Singapore Airlines. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson will retain control of Virgin Atlantic with a 51 percent stake in the airline.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic will also ask U.S. and European Union regulators for anti-trust immunity to operate trans-Atlantic flights. American Airlines and British Airways already have a joint-business agreement that allows them to jointly operate and market trans-Atlantic flights.
"By combining the strengths of our two companies in a joint venture, we can provide customers with a seamless network between North America and the U.K., and continue building a better airline for our customers, employees and shareholders," said Delta chief executive Richard Anderson.
With the deal, the airlines will operate a combined nine daily round-trips between London-Heathrow and New York's JFK airport and Newark airport. Passengers will also receive reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, the two airlines said.
"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," Branson said. "We will retain that independent spirit but move forward in a strengthened partnership with Delta."