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Delta-Air France Led SkyTeam Sees Gol, Virgin as Likely Recruits

The SkyTeam airline alliance said it may add Brazilian carrier Gol and U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. after leading member Delta Air Lines Inc. of the U.S. took stakes in both.

Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, in which Delta has a 6.15 percent holding, could consider applying for alliance membership in the next two years after expanding its network, SkyTeam Managing Director Michael Wisbrun said today in Cape Town, adding that: “Brazil is on the wish list.”

Virgin Atlantic and Delta will initially focus on winning regulatory approval for the U.S. company’s purchase of a 49 stake and on deepening bilateral ties, Wisbrun said. Seeking SkyTeam membership or some other alignment for the U.K. operator could be on the agenda in 2015, he said.

One of the main global markets where Skyteam lacks a member is India, and Wisbrun said airlines there need to undergo further change before it can be determined whether Jet Airways (India) Ltd. or another carrier there would be a candidate for recruitment. Jet has been bolstered by a move by Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi to take a 24 percent stake, the executive said.

Etihad, which has established code-share ties with Air France-KLM Group, the dominant carrier in SkyTeam alongside Delta, as well as with Kenya Airways Ltd., another member, is not currently in any talks to join, he said. Neither is Air Berlin Plc -- a Oneworld alliance carrier courted by Air France when Etihad bought its stake -- regarding as a likely addition.

While options exist to add to Skyteam -- which competes with British Airways and American Airlines-led Oneworld and the Star group led by Deutsche Lufthansa AG -- members are “comfortable with the footprint we have today,” Wisbrun said.

SkyTeam will formally add PT Garuda Indonesia in March, he confirmed at a briefing during the International Air Transport Association’s annual conference.

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