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达美千万不要收购维珍

达美千万不要收购维珍

Cyrus Sanati 2012年12月07日
这笔交易有可能危害达美航空的市场,违反达美与欧洲合作伙伴签订的反垄断协议,同时还要烧掉大量的金钱。另外,它还会使达美面临更严格的政府监管,而且维珍航空的当家人理查德·布兰森也不是什么省油的灯,这笔交易弊大于利。因此,珍爱股东和乘客,远离维珍大西洋航空。

    如果达美航空的旅客需要在一个地方转机,且需要搭乘一班达美航空本身不提供的航线,那么他们完全可以在天合联盟(Skyteam)在欧洲的其它枢纽转机,而且比在希思罗机场要容易得多。比如达美航空的旅客们如果在巴黎、阿姆斯特丹、马德里、罗马或米兰等地降落,可以转乘数千趟航班,前往数百个地点。而在希思罗机场,达美航空的旅客可以搭乘维珍航空的航班飞往18个目的地,而其中大多数目的地,达美航空也有自己的航班。就算维珍航空想加入天合联盟【它从未加入新加坡航空的星空联盟(Star Alliance)】,维珍航空有限的航线网络也不会给天合联盟带来什么好处。

    如果这还不够说明问题,千万别忘了维珍还正处于巨额亏损之中。上个财年,维珍航空的税前亏损达到8,020万英镑(约1.29亿美元)。事实上,上两个财年,维珍航空的亏损额已经让过去五年的利润荡然无存。维珍航空的问题在于,它在希思罗机场的业务模式基本已宣告失败。维珍航空有25%的国际航班和欧美航线航班是靠旗下的BMI航空为它提供国内乘客。BMI拥有希思罗机场11%的机位,相当于维珍的两到三倍。但最近英国航空公司(British Airways)把BMI收购至旗下,由此拥有了希思罗机场51%的机位。尽管在监管机构的要求下,英国航空公司被迫将部分机位让渡给维珍航空,但BMI在希思罗机场的重要性无可复制,从而让维珍的处境更加艰难。

    但对于维珍航空来说,达美航空和天合联盟很难取代BMI的重要性。尽管从理论上讲,天合联盟的成员也可以让旅客在希思罗机场转机,但维珍航空能提供的任何航线,天合联盟成员自己也能提供,而且更快、更便宜。天合联盟已经垄断了大部分跨大西洋航线,每天起飞超过250架次,因此几乎没有必要再增加新的航班了,尤其是在一些航班已经很多的繁忙航线上。而且天合联盟已经有了美国和欧盟的反垄断“免死金牌”,允许天合联盟成员合法共同定价。但如果天合联盟再增加一个成员,监管机构的反应也许不会那么友善了,甚至可能拒绝维珍航空参与共同定价。这样很快就会有效抹煞维珍与达美和天合联盟结盟所带来的利益。

    不过,达美航空不应与维珍大西洋航空联姻的最大原因也许是维珍大西洋航空的创始人兼大股东、亿万富翁理查德·布兰森。布兰森的维珍股份公司拥有维珍大西洋航空另外的51%的股份,因此布兰森对维珍航空有完全的控制权。维珍大西洋航空的首席执行官史蒂夫·李奇维对彭博新闻社(Bloomberg News)表示,即便新加坡航空出售了那49%的股权,布兰森也不大可能放弃他对维珍航空的近代制权。任何坐过维珍航空的人,或是了解理查德·布兰森的人,都不会对这个决定感到意外。这位大神最近雇了4位设计师,以他的脑袋为原型制造了许多冰块,用来放在头等舱旅客的饮料里。

    If Delta passengers need to connect to a destination not already served by its extensive network, they could do so more easily through one of its Skyteam partners' hubs in Europe, which, compared to Heathrow, are a breeze to connect through. And when they land in Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome or Milan, Delta passengers can take thousands of flights serving hundreds of destinations. At Heathrow, Virgin can take Delta passengers to 18 destinations, most of which it already serves. Even if Virgin wanted to join Skyteam (it never joined Singapore's Star Alliance), Virgin's limited route network would be of little benefit to the alliance.

    If that weren't enough, Virgin is also hemorrhaging cash. The airline posted a pretax loss of 80.2 million pounds ($129 million) for its fiscal year ending last February. In fact, the company's losses for the last two fiscal years have wiped out all profits made in the last five. Virgin's problem is that its business model at Heathrow is basically broken. The airline relied on the British airline BMI to feed up to 25% of its U.S. and international planes with domestic travelers. BMI had a massive 11% share of Heathrow's landing slots – two to three times as many as Virgin. But British Airways blew up that cozy arrangement by recently acquiring bmi, giving the flag carrier 51% of Heathrow's landing slots. While regulators have forced BA to relinquish some domestic slots to Virgin, they could never replicate BMI's heft at Heathrow, leaving it scrambling for a domestic partner airline.

    But Delta and its Skyteam partners are a poor substitute for BMI. While Skyteam's European airlines could theoretically connect their passengers through Heathrow, it wouldn't make sense as they could fly them directly to almost everywhere Virgin flies and beyond both faster and cheaper. Skyteam already operates the most flights over the Atlantic, with over 250 daily departures, so there is little need to add more flights, especially on the heavily traveled transatlantic route. Skyteam was granted anti-trust immunity by the US and the EU, allowing them to legally collude on prices. Regulators may not look too kindly on Skyteam adding yet another airline to the heap and could even go so far as to reject Virgin's entrance into the price setting cabal. That would effectively kill any minute benefit that would come from a tie up with Delta and its partners.

    But probably the biggest reason Delta shouldn't get in bed with Virgin Atlantic is Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic's billionaire founder and largest shareholder. His Virgin holding company owns the other 51% of Virgin Atlantic, giving Branson total control of the airline. Steve Ridgeway, Virgin Atlantic's chief executive, told Bloomberg News that Sir Richard is unlikely to relinquish control of Virgin Atlantic as part of a possible sale of Singapore's 49% minority stake. That should come to no surprise to anyone who has ever flown Virgin Atlantic or knows anything about Sir Richard at all. This is the man who recently commissioned four designers to create lifelike ice cubes of his head for passengers' drinks in Virgin Atlantic's tony "upper class" cabin.

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