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Sir Richard Branson is to sell his majority stake in Virgin Atlantic, the airline has announced.
Air France-KLM will acquire a 31 per cent ownership in the airline, currently held by the billionaire entrepreneur’s Virgin Group for £220 million.
Delta will retain its 49 per cent share of the company, leaving Virgin Group with 20 per cent.
The transactions are subject to a series of agreements and approvals, Virgin Atlantic said.
The carrier will remain a “UK airline with a UK operating certificate” and will continue flying under the Virgin brand, according to the statement.
Sir Richard said: “Virgin Atlantic has made a big difference to people’s flying experience over the past 33 years and transformed the airline industry for the better.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to extend our network and create a stronger customer champion, as well as being extremely beneficial to our people and the Virgin Atlantic brand that our customers love dearly.”
Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic marked the announcement by unveiling a plan to create “the most comprehensive transatlantic route network”.
They pledged to offer convenient flight schedules with competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem air miles across all carriers.
Thy aim to make changes to improve connectivity times and allow premium passengers to access each airlines’ lounges.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “We built the Virgin Atlantic brand by providing customers with the choice they deserve and a travel experience they love.
“We couldn’t be more excited that the next stage of our growth will be at the heart of the strongest partnership for customers travelling between Europe and North America.
“Together with our friends at Air France-KLM and Delta we will build on this vision of our teams creating irresistible experiences for customers flying on our network.”
Air France-KLM said the partnership will provide passengers with “even more choice”, while Delta claimed the deal would “spur additional benefits for customers, employees and shareholders”.
Additional reporting by Press Association.
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