ST. GEORGE – A sizeable business deal announced last week by Delta Air Lines will enhance airline options for local travelers; a grant received earlier this year by the City of St. George is intended to do the same.
Delta is planning to purchase 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, which will include three seats on Virgin Atlantic’s board of directors, for $360 million. The joint venture with the British-owned airline will increase Delta’s traffic at Heathrow Airport in London, one of the world’s largest business hubs. According to Delta Airlines, the strategic alliance creates an expanded trans-Atlantic network and enhanced benefits for customers traveling between the United States, Canada and Mexico and the United Kingdom. The goal is to have the venture in place by the end of 2013; it first requires antitrust approval by regulators in both Europe and the United States.
“Delta‘s acquisition of almost half of Virgin Atlantic’s shares has the potential to benefit the company and consumers, including many Utah residents,” Sen. Mike Lee, a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, said in a statement on Dec. 11. “At the same time, consolidation can sometimes pose a threat to competition as fewer providers dominate a larger share of the market. As with all transactions of this significance, I will take a close look to ensure that it complies with antitrust laws and will be in the best interest of consumers.”
SkyWest Airlines is a regional partner of Delta and the sole provider of commercial traffic at the St. George Municipal Airport, with over two dozen weekly inbound and outbound flights connecting to a variety of destinations across North America. Though they anticipate no direct impact to their service, SkyWest spokesperson Marissa Snow said that the purchase will allow them to offer customers more connectivity and global travel options.
Improving travel options for residents of the St. George area at its municipal airport is the broad purpose of a $550,000 grant awarded the City of St. George by the Transportation Department’s Small Community Air Service Development Program in August 2012. City officials are planning to use the funds to open up long-term flight service to new destinations, potentially Denver and Phoenix.
“We are considering all options,” Mortensen said. “Our local airline, SkyWest, seems like a logical choice, but no deal has been struck yet.”
The grant money has not yet been put to use, Mortensen said. But it is viable for three years.
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