Virgin Atlantic Confirms SkyTeam Alliance

Virgin Atlantic Confirms SkyTeam Alliance

DALLAS — Virgin Atlantic (VS) has today officially joined the SkyTeam Alliance at a special signing ceremony, becoming the first UK-based carrier in the alliance. VS is a transatlantic joint venture partner of Air France-KLM (AF-KL) and Delta Air Lines (DL). The latter owns a 49% interest in Virgin.

Plans for VS to join the SkyTeam alliance were confirmed in September 2022. This looked like a natural fit and had been needed for a while. Although we already knew when it was intended to happen, we now have a set date. 

Other SkyTeam members include Aeromexico (AM), China Eastern (MU), Korean Air (KE), Middle East Airlines (ME), Saudia (SV), Vietnam Airlines (VN), etc. in addition to the airlines mentioned earlier. With the exception of ITA Airways (AZ), Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to join the alliance since 2014, which is rather important.

The alliance will help to strengthen the carriers ‘transatlantic network and services to and from Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) airports.’ According to a statement released by the airline, ‘Virgin Atlantic customers will now benefit from a consistent, seamless customer experience across 1,000 global destinations in over 170 countries. Customers can conveniently book every SkyTeam member flight on a single ticket, checking in with baggage just once through to their final destination.’

“SkyTeam shares a customer first ethos that mirrors our own and our entry into the alliance today marks an important milestone in achieving our vision to become the most-loved travel company.

“We want to reward those who choose to fly with Virgin Atlantic and our Flying Club members deserve the very best loyalty proposition.  Our SkyTeam membership offers this through a global network of maximised reward opportunities, alongside enhanced services on the ground and in the skies.”

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss.
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 (G-VRPD) ‘Rain Bow.’ Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways.

SkyTeam and Virgin Atlantic

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Gold and Silver members, will receive reciprocal elite status when flying on other SkyTeam member airlines; Gold members will be granted SkyTeam Elite Plus status, and Silver members will be granted SkyTeam Elite status.
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members will be able to accumulate and use points on all SkyTeam member airlines.
  • Other SkyTeam loyalty program participants can accumulate and use points for Virgin Atlantic trips.
  • More codeshare agreements will likely be established with other SkyTeam member airlines, although this is to be determined.

With distinct award tables for each partner airline, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers some fantastic sweet spot redemptions, notably on Air New Zealand (NZ), All Nippon Airlines (NH), and DL. We can only hope that neither the relationships with non-SkyTeam airlines nor these sweet spot redemptions won’t be slashed in favor of a simplified award system.

Given that the airline is a transatlantic joint venture partner with SkyTeam airlines and is partially controlled by Delta, Virgin Atlantic initially appears to be a natural fit for SkyTeam.

“We are delighted to welcome Virgin Atlantic into SkyTeam, taking an already close relationship to new heights and elevating our customer offering with more routes to exciting destinations and access to aspirational airport lounges – not to mention the airline’s world-famous flair.

“The U.K. is a key market for SkyTeam and with Virgin Atlantic on board, customers can look forward to more opportunities to earn and redeem miles as they fly, enjoying the iconic travel experience that makes our newest member a globally loved airline.”

Patrick Roux, SkyTeam CEO and Managing Director.
Today, in-flight entertainment screens are a staple of air travel. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Why Join Now?

Why has the airline not become a member of SkyTeam sooner? Part owner DL currently views bilateral deals as having much greater value. And when it comes to the airlines in which it owns a stake, Delta frequently has a significant effect. Although Delta previously didn’t seem to be in favor of LATAM joining SkyTeam, it will be interesting to see their next step!

In the end, frequent fliers benefit greatly from airlines joining global alliances since they may earn and use points and receive reciprocal elite status.

Featured Image: Virgin Atlantic (G-VZIG) Boeing 787-9. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

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