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How Many Airlines Does Delta Really Run?

Lots of airlines invest overseas—Delta does a bit more.
Operations At The Aeromexico Hangar As Delta Boosts Investment
Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

By typical industry measures, Delta is the world’s third-largest airline. Yet, as an airline heavily invested in other airlines, Delta is arguably the world’s biggest player by a large margin. No other single airline has such power to shape the industry and spur further consolidation across the globe.

In perhaps the best-known example of how this works, Delta owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic Airways. Next year the carrier will assume the same share (PDF) of Grupo Aeromexico; Delta anticipates greater air access to the Mexican market and a joint venture with the Mexican flag carrier, modeled after those it already operates across the Atlantic with Air-France-KLM and Virgin.