Virgin Atlantic will join the SKyTeam alliance in early 2023, boosting the group’s presence in the UK. Virgin Atlantic will become SkyTeam’s first and only UK member airline, offering long-haul flights from Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.
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.– Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic’s entry into the alliance builds upon the success of its transatlantic joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM, each already long established SkyTeam members. The four partners are co-located at London Heathrow’s Terminal Three, alongside existing SkyTeam members Aeromexico and China Eastern, providing customers with smooth airside transits and the most convenient connections times possible.
Virgin Atlantic also already holds codeshare agreements with SkyTeam members Aeromexico and Middle East Airlines. It holds interline agreements with all alliance members.
Virgin Atlantic Silver Card holders will be recognised as SkyTeam Elite Members, whilst the airline’s Gold Card members will become Elite Plus. This recognition provides a raft of benefits, including priority check in, baggage handling and boarding. Flying Club members will be able to take advantage of the benefits as soon as Virgin Atlantic officially enrols in SkyTeam, which is expected in early 2023.
With Delta holding a 49% stake in the carrier since 2014, this move would appear to be either several years late or surprising that it happened at all. The bulk of Virgin Atlantic’s service covers the Transatlantic market where the carrier already participates in a Joint Venture with Delta, Air France, and KLM. Joining the alliance delivers minimal value there, if at all.
It potentially helps in other markets, but the onward connection opportunities are limited by Virgin Atlantic’s relatively small footprint. The deal does, however, allow SkyTeam to claim a London hub in its network. That said, even with the Virgin Atlantic flights added, SkyTeam holds fewer slots at Heathrow than Star Alliance members.
Also of note is that the airlines are not yet ready to announce exactly what benefits SkyTeam Elite Plus members will receive when flying on Virgin Atlantic. Upper Class (business class) passengers today can access Upper Class lounges across the network, as well as a priority check-in and security area in Heathrow. Opening those up to all Elite Plus members could overwhelm the facilities. But the alliance acknowledges that everyone wants that access. Details on what will actually be implemented are to be announced at some point in the future.
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