Virgin Atlantic Joining SkyTeam Alliance In 2023

Virgin Atlantic Joining SkyTeam Alliance In 2023

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While this seems like an obvious fit, I’m still surprised to see it finally happening.

Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam alliance

Virgin Atlantic will be joining the SkyTeam alliance as of early 2023 (I’ve heard the target is late January 2023). Virgin Atlantic will become SkyTeam’s only UK-based member airline. Keep in mind that Delta Air Lines has a 49% ownership stake in Virgin Atlantic, and the airline is also in a transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Delta.

For context, beyond the above airlines, SkyTeam has members like Aeromexico, China Eastern, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, Vietnam Airlines, etc. This is pretty significant, because Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to join SkyTeam since 2014 (well, with the exception of ITA Airways, but really that’s just a rebranded version of Alitalia).

Virgin Atlantic is joining the SkyTeam alliance

What are the implications of Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam?

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Silver members will receive reciprocal elite recognition when flying with other SkyTeam member airlines; Gold members will get SkyTeam Elite Plus status, while Silver members will get SkyTeam Elite status
  • Other SkyTeam member airline elite members will receive reciprocal elite recognition when flying with Virgin Atlantic; in fairness, some members (like Delta) already offered reciprocal elite perks on Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members will be able to earn and redeem points for travel on all SkyTeam member airlines
  • Members of other SkyTeam loyalty programs will be able to earn and redeem points for travel on Virgin Atlantic
  • We may see more codeshare agreements put in place with other SkyTeam member airlines, though that remains to be seen
Expect reciprocal lounge access via SkyTeam

Here’s how Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss describes this development:

“At Virgin Atlantic we strive to create thoughtful experiences that feel different for our customers and SkyTeam shares that customer first ethos. 2022 marks the year Virgin Atlantic gets back to its best for our customers and people and joining SkyTeam is an important milestone. Our membership will allow us to enhance established relationships with our valued partners at Delta and Air France-KLM, as well as opening up opportunities to collaborate with new airlines. It will enable a seamless customer experience, with an expanded network and maximised loyalty benefits.”

Here’s how SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile describes this development:

“As a member of SkyTeam, Virgin Atlantic will benefit from increased opportunities to expand its global network through partnerships and synergies: customers will have more ways to earn and burn miles while enjoying the service for which Virgin Atlantic is renowned. Virgin Atlantic shares SkyTeam’s values, caring for our customers, our employees, and the world in which they live, and we are excited to have them as part of the SkyTeam family.”

Virgin Atlantic will be joining the SkyTeam alliance

My take on Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam

On the surface, Virgin Atlantic seems like an obvious fit for SkyTeam, given that the airline is partly owned by Delta, and is in a transatlantic joint venture with SkyTeam airlines.

Why hasn’t the airline joined SkyTeam up until now? Well, because Delta is kind of anti-alliance nowadays. The airline sees a lot more value in bilateral agreements, rather than larger alliances. Delta tends to exert quite a bit of influence over the airlines it has ownership stakes in. Now I’m curious if LATAM joins SkyTeam as well, since previously that didn’t seem like something that Delta was supportive of.

Ultimately airlines joining global alliances is always great for frequent flyers in terms of reciprocal elite recognition and the ability to earn and redeem points. That being said, this is an area where SkyTeam is significantly worse than oneworld and Star Alliance, in my experience:

  • SkyTeam member airlines aren’t as good as oneworld and Star Alliance member airlines at making reciprocal award seats available
  • SkyTeam isn’t actually great about integrating members; for example, ITA Airways is now technically in SkyTeam, but take a look at the reciprocal SkyTeam perks offered, plus the (lack of) ability to redeem points on ITA
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus recognition isn’t as good as Star Alliance Gold or oneworld Emerald recognition in terms of lounge access; for example, foreign SkyTeam Elite Plus members don’t get lounge access when traveling domestically in the United States
SkyTeam isn’t very seamless at times

I’m also curious what this development means for the value of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club going forward. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has separate award charts for each partner airline, and has some great sweet spot redemptions, including on Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, and Delta. Here’s to hoping we don’t see these sweet spot redemptions eliminated, in favor of a streamlined award chart.

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic will be joining the SkyTeam alliance as of early 2023. This is great news for frequent flyers, as it will allow for some reciprocal points earning and redemption opportunities, as well as reciprocal elite benefits. I’m curious to see what this means for the value of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, though.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam?

Conversations (29)
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  1. Carol Guest

    Let’s hope airline alliances are in for a renaissance period…

  2. Henry LAX Guest

    finally this took forever !! Now Skyteam looking better by the minute,

    while oneworld is sooooo desperate to fill its gaping voids in coverage,

    the one that just got exponentially more dire after the de facto collapse of CoronaPacific as a

    they’re even willing to entertain delusions from the Qatari’s hobbit to bring on Rwandair.

    If oneworld were smart they should seek out vistara and StarLux, plus doing something in LatAm about the fact...

    finally this took forever !! Now Skyteam looking better by the minute,

    while oneworld is sooooo desperate to fill its gaping voids in coverage,

    the one that just got exponentially more dire after the de facto collapse of CoronaPacific as a

    they’re even willing to entertain delusions from the Qatari’s hobbit to bring on Rwandair.

    If oneworld were smart they should seek out vistara and StarLux, plus doing something in LatAm about the fact that AA has to partner with GOL.

    I wouldn’t count on courting LATAM Air again even if they were on the market for new partners - 2 decades of oneworld and they were all so willing to throw all of them under the bus, with execs of oneworld partners finding it out from the media.

    A partner loyal only to the highest bidder at any moment of time isn’t a partner worth pursuing - for airlines, for relationships, for any, and every, aspect of life.

    1. Brianair Guest

      What is CoronaPacific? Are you talking about Cathay Pacific?

      If Starlux does end up joining Oneworld, do you think China Southern will never join an alliance again? I believe that since they left Skyteam, they are the largest full-service airline to not be part of any alliance, excluding Emirates and Etihad. It seems like they're in a strange spot.

      The situation in South America sucks. Having all of the different LATAM branded airlines in Oneworld...

      What is CoronaPacific? Are you talking about Cathay Pacific?

      If Starlux does end up joining Oneworld, do you think China Southern will never join an alliance again? I believe that since they left Skyteam, they are the largest full-service airline to not be part of any alliance, excluding Emirates and Etihad. It seems like they're in a strange spot.

      The situation in South America sucks. Having all of the different LATAM branded airlines in Oneworld kept things balanced since Skyteam already had Aerolineas and Star Alliance had all of the different Avianca airlines plus Copa. Losing LATAM cut Oneworld off from the intra-South America market overnight. American Airlines can only do so much on their own. GOL and JetSMART are low-cost carriers and they are only band-aid solutions at best.

  3. Creditcrunch Diamond

    I read on the skyteam website that VS will be working to make the Upper Class wing and LHR and Global Clubhouses open to the SkyTeam Elite members. What a shame but needs must I suppose, time will tell what impact this will have on the ground experience and what reward availability will be like.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      If most of the SkyTeam carriers remain in T4, which at this point it seems they will, then that claim is just a polite formality without much actual substance behind it.

    2. Creditcrunch Diamond

      Currently US customers who hold status through their credit cards can only access if they are flying on a VS operated flight, I assume that will change, also what will the impact be on AF and KLM intra European J PAX if they are also granted access on short hops. The arrivals lounge was (is) even more strict on its entry requirements, again will be interesting to see how that offering is opened up to SkyTeam.

  4. Eskimo Guest

    There goes the Clubhouse, at least it used to be premium cabin or flying VS. At least Matthew doesn't have to worry about being a discriminating second class citizen anymore.

  5. Andrew Guest

    Pardon my ignorance, what alliance was Virgin Atlantic in before this?

  6. Jan Guest

    About time. The DL/AF/KL JV points earnings get shady when VS is in the flight itinerary since it wasn't SkyTeam (and thus would earn no points). SkyTeam in western Europe looks very strong; can they do something about the Middle East and SE Asia now?
    I also wonder then, if VS lounges (say, in JFK T4) will also start to accept SkyTeam E+ pax.
    As for concerns about the ANA F redemption, it doesn't really matter; availabilty is a myth.

  7. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Seems like SkyTeam exerted some pressure on Delta to pull a "family member" into the fold since OneWorld has added Royal Air Maroc, Alaska Airlines, Oman Air, and now RwandAir into the mix over the last few years (while losing LATAM and suspending S7).

  8. Happy Flyer Member

    This is awesome for SkyTeam! VS' non-alliance ventures will go away thus their miles will not be as popular.

  9. Airfarer Diamond

    Arrgh. I can see this going downhill fast for VS miles tickets. Definitely will not be transferring any points into VS for the time being.

  10. Art_Czar Member

    This puts everyone on notice. Redeem your VS miles for premium cabin redemptions (on partners) while you can still squeeze respectable value from them. Soon they'll be worth the same as Skypesoes - following Delta's playbook of unpublished high 6-figure redemptions for premium cabins will be the new normal for the newest Skyteam member.

    1. Andrew Diamond

      Strong suspicion you're right. Just wish I had better redemption options.

    2. Geoff Guest

      Yup, this is not a good thing for SkyTeam or Virgin travelers looking to use points from AMEX to overcome Delta's @400,000 SM requirement vs Virgin's often 50,000 point requirement.
      The gang at Delta rev mgt will drop the hammer any day now.

    3. Levi Gold

      They could have dropped it before. Delta's effectively controlled Virgin Atlantic for the best part of a decade.

      Flying Blue has long had JAL and Qantas as partners (as well as Malaysian, though in a more limited way), so being in SkyTeam doesn't mean ending ANA/ANZ partnerships (unless *A has such a rule).

    4. DCAWABN Guest

      Yep. This is what actually caused me to stop flying with Delta both domestically and internationally. The points are worthless unless you're Diamond Medallion. If you can just pay cash for everything, including premium cabins, all the time, then great. But I want my BiS miles to count toward something more than access to Sky Clubs which are becoming worse by the moment. Now I just fly *A but credit to AC. Seems like I'll add VS to that list, too.

  11. Tim Dunn Diamond

    This will open the door to greater cooperation between VS and cooperation between Skyteam airlines besides DL and AF/KL. I would bet we will see greater cooperation between VS and KE as well as greater cooperation with Latam as they emerge from Chapter 11 even though LA is not in Skyteam - yet. This will also help Skyteam negotiate with airlines in other regions - such as India and the Middle East - where Skyteam...

    This will open the door to greater cooperation between VS and cooperation between Skyteam airlines besides DL and AF/KL. I would bet we will see greater cooperation between VS and KE as well as greater cooperation with Latam as they emerge from Chapter 11 even though LA is not in Skyteam - yet. This will also help Skyteam negotiate with airlines in other regions - such as India and the Middle East - where Skyteam needs to have a bigger impact.
    As for elite benefits, Skyteam has long had a much more "what is best for the individual airline" mindset but the value of those benefits to passengers increase as the alliance grows.

  12. VT-CIE Gold

    I’m surprised that this article is almost entirely about the elite-flyer status that VS FC members will get, instead of the broader geopolitical implications and how this is the first brand-new airline (not counting ITA) that SkyTeam has added in years. In contrast, for your Oman Air Oneworld article, it was much less about elite status.

    1. VT-CIE Gold

      Though yes, I do see a small line about how Delta-owned airlines prefer not to participate in alliances, such as WS, LA and formerly 9W. But elite status is not the only benefit of airlines joining alliances. I am one of the very few OMAAT readers who has nothing to do with frequent-flier status and instead treat it more like an aviation update blog!

    2. Eskimo Guest

      " I am one of the very few OMAAT readers who has nothing to do with frequent-flier status and instead treat it more like an aviation update blog!"

      @VT-CIE
      I have to admire your presence here. That statement alone would make at least 75% of posts here irrelevant while another 15% is more like aviation tabloid than an update to you.

    3. Amos Guest

      Isn't "geopolitical" rather over-egging it?

  13. Khatl Diamond

    uh-oh. Almost guaranteed ANA, NZ etc will go away given they are star alliance. And Delta sweet spots are almost equally guaranteed to become sour, given the dominance of AF/KLM & Delta in Skyteam.

    1. Vasco Guest

      SkyTeam doesn’t really care about out of alliance partnerships the way Star Alliance does. In Flying Blue, for instance, I can earn and redeem for Copa (*A), and Malaysia, JAL, and Qantas (all OW). This includes earning status points.

    2. Dan Guest

      A lot of Star Alliance partners have cross-alliance (and unaligned partnerships). NZ has codeshares with CX and QF for example.

      UA, AC and SQ where all 3 are Star members also has VA codeshares.

      There was also speculation that *A wanted VA to get rid of their non-Star membership back in the Borghetti days, but that was clearly moot considering they had less partnerships but the codeshares was spread across Sky (DL, MX) and Star...

      A lot of Star Alliance partners have cross-alliance (and unaligned partnerships). NZ has codeshares with CX and QF for example.

      UA, AC and SQ where all 3 are Star members also has VA codeshares.

      There was also speculation that *A wanted VA to get rid of their non-Star membership back in the Borghetti days, but that was clearly moot considering they had less partnerships but the codeshares was spread across Sky (DL, MX) and Star members (SQ, AC) and a lot of unaligned members (HU, HA, EY, etc). They also had Oneworld codeshare partner in AB (was a former EY sibling before they liquidated)

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      "Guaranteed" by whom? Someone who clearly doesn't know that SkyTeam never really gave a care about extra-alliance cooperation, so it seems.

  14. Mantis Guest

    I hope this isn't the end of the ANA F sweet spot.

    1. Sam Guest

      Not so sweet since the increased fuel surcharges & basically little to no availability.

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Amos Guest

Isn't "geopolitical" rather over-egging it?

3
VT-CIE Gold

I’m surprised that this article is almost entirely about the elite-flyer status that VS FC members will get, instead of the broader geopolitical implications and how this is the first brand-new airline (not counting ITA) that SkyTeam has added in years. In contrast, for your Oman Air Oneworld article, it was much less about elite status.

3
VT-CIE Gold

Though yes, I do see a small line about how Delta-owned airlines prefer not to participate in alliances, such as WS, LA and formerly 9W. But elite status is not the only benefit of airlines joining alliances. I am one of the very few OMAAT readers who has nothing to do with frequent-flier status and instead treat it more like an aviation update blog!

2
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