Virgin Atlantic joins the SkyTeam Alliance
Flying Club now has 15 new airline partners attached.
What we'll be covering
Virgin Atlantic is the newest member of the SkyTeam Alliance. The UK-based carrier signed on the dotted line on 2 March 2023. With partnerships already previously in place with Air France, Delta Air Lines and KLM, the move brings SkyTeam’s remaining 15 member airlines on board with Virgin Atlantic too.
Not only can Virgin Atlantic’s elite Flying Club members now enjoy perks when travelling right across the SkyTeam Alliance, there are also new options for earning and spending Flying Club’s Virgin Points.
In fact, for selected American Express Card Members in Australia, the move unlocks a new path for redeeming points on SkyTeam flights. Here’s the latest.
SkyTeam welcomes Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic’s admission into SkyTeam comes less than six months after the plan was initially announced. While there are still a few IT projects to complete, connections are now live to earn and redeem Flying Club points across most of the alliance.
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 UK 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, 2 March 2023
Another perk to joining SkyTeam is broader recognition for Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club Silver and Gold members. Flying Club Silver cardholders are now also SkyTeam Elite frequent flyers. Those at the higher tiers – Flying Club Gold and the invitation-only level, UNIQ – are now SkyTeam Elite Plus cardholders.
Here’s what this all means.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver = SkyTeam Elite
SkyTeam Elite is the first of two SkyTeam Alliance-wide tiers. These perks include:
- Priority check-in and bag drop
- Priority airport standby
- Additional checked baggage allowance
- Priority boarding
- Access to preferred seats on board
On the baggage front, the extra entitlement depends on whether the airline uses the ‘weight’ or ‘piece’ system for the flight. SkyTeam Elite cardholders can pack an extra 10kg where the’ weight’ system is used. Where the ‘piece’ system is used instead, it’s one extra checked bag.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and UNIQ = SkyTeam Elite Plus
For SkyTeam travellers, Elite Plus is the highest level of alliance-wide recognition available. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and UNIQ members can look forward to Elite Plus perks when flying across the entirety of SkyTeam.
SkyTeam Elite Plus cardholders enjoy all the same perks as SkyTeam Elite, as well as:
- Airport lounge access when flying internationally
- Guaranteed reservations on sold-out flights
- Priority at airport transfer desks
- Fast-track at immigration and security, where available
- Priority baggage handling
- Additional checked baggage
On the baggage front, while SkyTeam Elite members get 10kg extra on ‘weight’ system itineraries, SkyTeam Elite Plus members get 20kg instead. Where the ‘piece’ system applies, it’s still just one extra bag, mirroring SkyTeam Elite.
As standard across SkyTeam, lounge access only applies with a same-day international flight. There’s no lounge access on domestic-only itineraries unless the airline specifically includes it with the fare: such as when booking ‘Delta One’ on flagship US domestic routes.
Speaking of lounges, at London’s Heathrow Airport, Virgin Atlantic will stay put in Terminal 3. This means travellers can continue relaxing in the airline’s fabulous Clubhouse lounge before Virgin Atlantic flights. But when flying a SkyTeam airline from Terminal 4, the SkyTeam-branded lounge will await.
Earning and spending Virgin Points on SkyTeam flights
Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club members could already earn and spend ‘Virgin Points’ on three SkyTeam airlines. Those being Air France, Delta Air Lines and KLM – three carriers with which Virgin Atlantic had already forged bespoke partnerships.
But as of March 2023, Flying Club members can earn and spend rewards right across the SkyTeam Alliance, with a couple of exceptions still to be brought online. Members of other SkyTeam frequent flyer programs can also earn and spend miles aboard Virgin Atlantic.
Flight redemptions using Virgin Points are now available for most SkyTeam flights. There’s currently just an exception for travel on China Eastern, on which the ability to earn and redeem Virgin Points won’t commence until July 2023.
Flying Club members will also need to wait until ‘later in 2023’ to book ITA Airways flights using Virgin Points. However, in the meantime, Virgin Points can still be earned when travelling with ITA Airways on eligible fares.
Earning and redemption rates for SkyTeam flights are now available on the Virgin Atlantic website. However, there have been some changes to the number of Virgin Points needed to book travel with the program’s other airline partners. For instance, redemption rates on ANA have recently increased without any prior notice.
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.– Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, 2 March 2023
Virgin Atlantic’s new SkyTeam Alliance partners
Again, Virgin Atlantic was already cosy with three SkyTeam members: Air France, Delta Air Lines and KLM. Joining SkyTeam adds a further 15 airlines to Virgin Atlantic’s partnership roster.
Here’s a rundown of those 15 airlines.
|Airline||Home country||Key hub city||Frequent Flyer program|
|Aerolíneas Argentinas||Argentina||Buenos Aires||Aerolíneas Plus|
|AeroMéxico||Mexico||Mexico City||Club Premier|
|China Airlines||Taiwan||Taipei||Dynasty Flyer|
|China Eastern Airlines||China||Shanghai||Eastern Miles|
|Czech Airlines||Czech Republic||Prague||OK Plus|
|Kenya Airways||Kenya||Nairobi||Flying Blue|
|Korean Air||South Korea||Seoul||SKYPASS|
|Middle East Airlines (MEA)||Lebanon||Beirut||Cedar Miles|
With Virgin Atlantic now in SkyTeam, you can use Korean Air SKYPASS miles to book a Virgin Atlantic flight, for instance. In the other direction, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s Virgin Points could score you a seat on China Airlines or any of the other SkyTeam carriers. (Noting the slight delays with China Eastern and ITA Airways).
Of course, Air France/KLM Flying Blue and Delta SkyMiles members could already spend miles on Virgin Atlantic flights – and vice versa for Flying Club members.
American Express Australia gains a SkyTeam transfer partner
Even with Virgin Atlantic based in the United Kingdom, the carrier joining SkyTeam brings an interesting twist for some Australian travellers. That’s because Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club frequent flyer program is a points transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards in Australia.
Prior to Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam, Membership Rewards didn’t offer any direct SkyTeam transfer options for Australian members. There were previously just a collection of bespoke opportunities for redeeming points on specific SkyTeam carriers via a more complex web of frequent flyer partnerships.
Membership Rewards users could redeem on Air Europa, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air and Saudia by transferring points to Etihad Guest. Korean Air is also an option via Emirates Skywards, while Virgin Atlantic Flying Club was the go-to for Air France, Delta and KLM.
Those at Membership Rewards’ highest tier, Ascent Premium, could also convert points to Qantas Frequent Flyer for flights on Air France, China Eastern and KLM. Qantas Points can also be used to book China Airlines’ flights between Australia and Taipei, although not routes further afield.
But with Virgin Atlantic now in SkyTeam, its Flying Club program is a single port of call for all SkyTeam flights. Amex Membership Rewards Card Members could then simply convert points to Flying Club and redeem them on any SkyTeam Alliance airline with reward seat availability.
It’s great to see Virgin Atlantic spreading its wings and joining the SkyTeam fold. With long-term partnerships already in place with several of those SkyTeam members, joining the alliance was the next logical step.
For us here in Australia, the move is quite interesting from a credit card points perspective. It strengthens American Express’ own Membership Rewards program Down Under. Being able to directly convert points to frequent flyer programs of all three global alliances – and at competitive rates – is quite the drawcard.
With Virgin Atlantic joining an alliance, one question remains: will its sister airline Virgin Australia follow suit?
Speaking with Point Hacks in June 2022, Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO Nick Rohrlach shared that ‘we don’t have to join a global alliance’ for international expansion. Meanwhile, in December 2021, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka hinted that ‘we’re always open to the world of possibilities’ on international alliances.
It seems the ball is now in Virgin Australia’s court.
Feature image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.
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