US, EU authorities approve Delta-Virgin tie-up

Antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic gave the go-ahead Thursday to Delta Air Lines's purchase of a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, to build a joint transatlantic service.

The US Department of Justice and European Commission both found no competition issues in the deal, opening the way for Delta and Virgin to start joint services over the Atlantic.

In December Delta announced it would buy the stake from Singapore Airlines for $360 million, with the Virgin Group retaining its 51 percent share.

The deal will put Delta and Virgin into a joint venture which will offer as many as 31 round-trip flights between Britain and the United States, including 23 to or from the key London-Heathrow hub.

Delta and Virgin argued that their tie-up would offer more competition to American Airlines and British Airways, whose own cooperation holds a powerful share of the US Heathrow market.

Delta already operates in transatlantic joint deals with Air France and Italy's Alitalia.