Delta's joint venture agreement with Virgin Atlantic makes so much sense it might qualify for the Airline Smart Move of the Year Award.

Not only does the alliance solve a raft of problems for both carriers, it should be good for the industry and for consumers that British Airways will have strong rivals at its Heathrow fortress.

That fortress was clearly destined to get stronger with BA's recent acquisition of British rival BMI and American's expected return to its fighting weight as it nears the end of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Delta and Virgin had little time to lose.

As we note in the news pages today, the deal with Virgin is the latest in a series of strategic moves whereby Delta seems to be systematically shoring up whatever weak spots remained after its merger with Northwest and its alliance with Air France-KLM: a joint venture with Virgin Australia, a big investment in creating a base in New York, buying a refinery.

All of these moves make Delta look pretty smart. To the extent they were all made possible by the bankruptcy and Northwest merger, it's a testament to the need for legacy airlines to reinvent themselves.

Let's hope the rest of them are equally successful.
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