Virgin Atlantic: Time for an alliance?

Virgin Atlantic has remained steadfastly independent over the past 20 years despite emerging airline alliances forming around them left and right.  Richard Branson has been an outspoken critic of these alliances and managed to be a big player in keeping British Airways and American Airlines from partnering up for over 15 years.

That said, they’re starting to look awfully lonely on the playing field and even a bit anemic.  This strategy of going it alone has worked in the past but I’m not so sure it works for them in the future.  They need more “feed” for their flights and, frankly, they could stand to make it a bit more attractive to potential customers by offering more choices too.

Sir Richard, it’s time you start looking for some strategic alliances. 

Virgin Atlantic has even kind of failed at making strategic alliances with its own brands around the world.  They do not cooperate closely with Virgin Blue, V Australia or Virgin America (in the last case it was a condition upon granting permission for Virgin America to start up so we’ll give them that one.) 

But it’s time.  It’s time for more strategic alliances and there are opportunities out there.  SkyTeam might actually be an excellent fit for Virgin Atlantic since they have no real UK market penetration.  It might work even better if the airline group controlling Virgin Blue and V Australia brands were to join it as well.   Such an alliance would be well served in the US-UK market as well as throughout Europe and it would establish better competition in the US-Australia-New Zealand markets too. 

I’ll stand with Sir Richard on the fundamental wrongness of these alliances still.  However, it’s time to acknowledge that these alliances are here to stay and start finding a way to compete within their structures instead of hoping for another 2 column inches of press by objecting to them.


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