Delta & Virgin Atlantic Swapping Los Angeles & Atlanta Frequencies

In late 2012 Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced a new transatlantic joint venture. It was a smart move for both carriers. Virgin Atlantic was struggling and thought that in order to survive they’d have to join an alliance. Meanwhile this was an opportunity for Delta to even further increase their presence in London Heathrow, and put up a real fight against the American & British Airways joint venture between the US and London.

So without having to formally join an alliance, it seems that the joint venture has been working quite well, and the frequent flyer reciprocity has been good for consumers, in my opinion. Delta BusinessElite passengers and elite members can use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow, both of which are among my favorite business class lounges in the world (and almost on par with the best first class lounges).

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK

SkyMiles members can redeem miles for travel in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without fuel surcharges, which is awesome.

Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class

Delta and Virgin Atlantic will soon be taking their relationship one step further, as they’ll each be swapping one of their daily Los Angeles and Atlanta frequencies as of October 26, 2014.

Virgin Atlantic will be taking over one of Delta’s three daily Atlanta frequencies, and will operate an A330-300 with the following schedule:

VS103 London Heathrow to Atlanta departing 9:25AM arriving 2:20PM
VS104 Atlanta to London Heathrow departing 5:30PM arriving 6:35AM (+1 day)

Meanwhile Delta will be taking over one of Virgin Atlantic’s two daily Los Angeles frequencies, and will operate a 767-300ER with the following schedule:

DL35 London Heathrow to Los Angeles departing 3:00PM arriving 8:31PM
DL34 Los Angeles to London Heathrow departing 9:21PM arriving 3:25PM (+1 day)

Bottom line

Overall this is good news for consumers. You’ll never have complete “metal neutrality” among airlines that are part of a joint venture, so the more unique destinations your “native” airline serves, the better. For example, Delta Diamond Medallion members receive systemwide upgrades which they can redeem on Delta and not Virgin Atlantic. So having a new route on which those can be redeemed is a “win” for consumers.

(Tip of the hat to Daryl)

Filed Under: Delta, Virgin Atlantic
  1. Why doesnt Delta push Virgin Atlantic to join SkyTeam? Wouldnt that provide more benefits to everyone for connecting passengers and revenue?

  2. Lucky,

    Is the process for using DL miles on Virgin difficult (assuming one would not use your service)? Is there a good amount of Virgin availablity and what is the typical amount of points, say JFK/LHR?


  3. major upgrade for ATL and major downgrade for LAX. Both hard and soft product difference between VS and DL is like night and day.

  4. Lucky, how is availability on VS redeeming DL miles? Is it as bad as DL is for other redemptions?

  5. @ Brian L. — Delta doesn’t have access to all of Virgin Atlantic’s award space, though availability actually isn’t horrible. Better than you might expect.

  6. @ SKF — Redemption rates are the same as they would be on any of Delta’s other partners, so 125,000 SkyMiles for roundtrip business class between the US and Europe.

  7. I redeemed 100K for Virgin Atlantic JFK/LHR route on Delta site last month. Pretty good deal.

  8. Virgin has been pretty stingy with award space ex-LAX, so perhaps this will improve things a bit with skymiles for LAX-LHR travel.

  9. I don’t quite get the motivation for Virgin/DL to do this – what difference does it make to them?

  10. @Andrew – I read that ATL was offering incentives to new airlines offering service out of the airport. Perhaps DL and VS are sharing in this revenue. Plus this frees a plane up for DL out of ATL for other services. And VS can sell a lot of connecting service to it’s customers out of ATL.

  11. @ Andrew — That’s a great question. Since they codeshare I don’t see the financial incentive to do so either. Only explanations I can think of are:
    1) To give flyers with each airline an option to fly their “native” carrier if they prefer
    2) So they can individually say they serve more destinations/routes
    3) As a test to see what the impact of something like this is.

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