Virgin Atlantic officially joins the SkyTeam alliance today, just five months after announcing its intention to affiliate with the group. The move extends the loyalty program benefits for Virgin’s Flying Club members and expands access to the UK market for other SkyTeam partners.
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 maximized reward opportunities, alongside enhanced services on the ground and in the skies.– Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic
With a few limits…
Virgin’s ascension to the alliance comes with a few limits that may leave some elites in other loyalty programs on the outside, looking in. Most notably, the company’s flagship Upper Class lounge in London will not be open to all business class travelers departing from Heathrow.
Only passengers departing on Virgin Atlantic, Delta, or Aeromexico will have access to the Clubhouse at London Heathrow. Other SkyTeam Elite Plus members will be directed to their airline-designated lounge at Terminal 3. And not even all Elite Plus members will have access to the Clubhouse. Delta’s Gold Medallion tier does not gain access when flying in economy or even premium economy. Given Delta’s recent move to also remove access for Gold Medallion members at its own SkyClub lounges, any hope that the access would grow in London was probably misguided. But it is still somewhat disappointing as a consumer to see the myriad exceptions to the rules.
The frequent flyer program integration with two other SkyTeam members is also slightly delayed from today’s join date. Flying Club members can earn points today while flying on ITA Airways, but redemptions will not be available until “later in 2023.” Both earning and redemption on China Eastern will not arrive until July.
Delta has held a 49% stake in the carrier since 2014. 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. In that context it is hard to see significant value on either side for this new membership position. But the airlines all seem to think it makes sense.
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