对达美航空来说，这似乎是理所应当的做法，但这笔交易的麻烦其实很可能大于它的价值。首先，如果达美航空想在希思罗机场更有作为，它还不如从另一家航空公司那里买机位，因为那样更便宜也更容易。何况维珍航空为什么要把它的机位转让给达美航空呢？德勤会计师事务所（Deloitte）指出，与大多数媒体报道的恰恰相反，维珍航空在希思罗机场的机位并没那么多，它只拥有该机场3%到5%的机位，并且全部自用，而且大多数航线也是达美航空自己也运营的航线。不妨问问新加坡航空从维珍航空那里获得了多少个机位——答案是零。最近新加坡航空需要在希思罗机场为一趟新航班配置一个机位，结果它还是从南非航空（South African Airways）那里买的。
Delta could be making a big mistake pursuing Virgin Atlantic. While investing in an airline is a risky venture at any time, a tie-up with Virgin today looks particularly bad for the Atlanta-based carrier. The deal could jeopardize Delta's marketing and anti-trust agreements with its European partners, while burning up a bunch of cash in the process. In addition, Delta would have to deal with the twin threats of increased government scrutiny on one hand, and Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson's larger-than-life ego on the other, outweighing any benefit that could come from such a deal.
The markets weren't too surprised Monday when Singapore Airlines released a terse statement that it has entered talks to sell its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic. The partnership that began in 1999 between the two airlines had become so unprofitable that Singapore was forced to write down the value of its stake in Virgin from S$1.6 billion to basically zero this year.
There is plenty of blame to go around as to why Singapore wasn't able to make its venture with Virgin work. Singapore hoped the partnership would help it gain a foothold in the most profitable segment in the airline business – the transatlantic route between the U.S. and Europe. But both parties failed at executing any meaningful partnership agreements to allow that to happen; in fact, it was only last year that the two started codesharing their flights, something that should have happened a decade ago.
But after years of fruitlessly searching for a buyer, Singapore's long, Richard Branson-fueled nightmare could be coming to an end. Enter Delta Air Lines (DAL). Virgin's allure remains its lucrative Trans-Atlantic routes, specifically the New York to London route. Virgin has a number of extremely valuable landing "slots" at Heathrow Airport, which Delta covets. The conventional view here is that Virgin will transfer those slots to Delta, allowing it to expand its empire in the only other major European player.
While some see this as a "no-brainer," for Delta, any deal actually looks to be more trouble than it's worth. First, if Delta wants greater access to Heathrow, it would be cheaper and easier to just buy some slots from another airline, preferably one that it doesn't compete against. Why would Virgin turn over any of it slots to Delta, anyway? Contrary to most media reports, Virgin isn't some Heathrow gold mine slot machine, it only controls around 3% to 5% of them and uses all of them, mostly on routes that Delta already serves, according to Deloitte. Just ask Singapore how many slots it got from its deal with Virgin: zero. Indeed, when Singapore recently needed a slot pair for a new flight out of Heathrow it was forced to buy them from South African Airways.
But what about connecting passengers? The thinking here is that Virgin Atlantic and Delta could codeshare flights to let Virgin passengers connect to points in the US out of JFK Airport on Delta, while Delta passengers could do the same on Virgin flights out of Heathrow. Have you ever connected through Heathrow to another destination? To save you the misery, the airport is always stuffed to capacity, making connecting a terrible experience for passengers. And if you think Sir Richard Branson is going to let Delta passengers from Chattanooga into his exclusive "clubhouse" lounge in Heathrow's Terminal 3, you better think again. Not even first class passengers on Singapore Airlines can gain entry.