You might think that Virgin America partnering with Virgin Atlantic in their frequent flyer programs would be an easy fix, but not so. Virgin America is an independent U.S. company, not a subsidiary of Virgin Group, and the Department of Transportation wants to ensure that the airline is “all-American.” “We have to be at arm’s length,” said Richard Branson as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. “At the same time, getting a frequent flyer program between Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic makes sense.”
Branson went on to say, “There are aspects of America that have become even more protectionist. We [the United Kingdom and the United States] can fight a war together, but British people are not able to come to America and set up a business. I find it archaic and bizarre. Any company should be able to go anywhere in the world, whatever business you’re in.” Foreign citizens are barred from owning more than 25 percent of a U.S. airline or exercising operational control.