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Virgin Atlantic announced at a press conference in London on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, that the airline would join the SkyTeam airline alliance. Now, this has come to pass. Virgin Atlantic officially joined SkyTeam today, March 2, 2023.
The move is not particularly surprising considering Virgin's relationship with SkyTeam members. The airline already had a deep relationship with the big three members of the SkyTeam alliance: Delta, Air France, and KLM. Not to mention that Delta owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.
What We Know So Far About Virgin Atlantic Joining SkyTeam
Here is what we know so far from the press conferences and the accompanying press releases on the Virgin Atlantic newsroom website:
- Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam on March 2, 2023.
- Flying Club members will be able to earn and use Virgin points with all alliance members. New redemption rates have been released as of March 2, 2023. See below for details.
Elite Status Levels
In terms of elite status levels:
- Flying Club Silver = SkyTeam Elite.
- Flying Club Gold = SkyTeam Elite Plus.
Virgin Atlantic elite members receive the usual raft of benefits granted as part of alliance-wide elite status. These include priority check-in, baggage handling, lounge access, and more.
Here are the elite benefits that Flying Club elites can now expect when traveling with SkyTeam partners:
SkyTeam Elite Plus members traveling on Virgin Atlantic, Delta, or Aeromexico will have access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow. One exception: Delta Gold Medallion members will not have access to Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow Clubhouse unless traveling in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class or Delta One.
Other SkyTeam Elite Plus members will have to use the “airline-designated lounge” in Terminal 3.
Virgin Atlantic Gold members can now access a network of 750 worldwide airport lounges as Elite Plus members.
New Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Redemptions
Virgin Atlantic already offered a sizable list of partner airlines where travelers could earn and redeem Virgin points. Now with Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam, that list just grew by 14 airlines:
- Aerolíneas Argentinas
- Air Europa
- China Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- ITA Airways
- Kenya Airways
- Korean Air
- Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Atlantic SkyTeam Award Redemption Rates
Unlike its non-alliance partners, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is using a uniform distance-based award chart for all its new SkyTeam partners:
|Flight distance (miles)||Economy||Premium (where available)||Business|
However, Virgin Atlantic is retaining previous redemption award charts for Air France, KLM, and Delta — for better or worse.
Many new redemption options are already bookable on Virgin Atlantic's website. For example, fly the busiest aviation route in the world — between Seoul Gimpo and Jeju, South Korea — for just 5,500 Virgin points in economy or 14,500 Virgin points in business class:
Awards Not Yet Available
While that's a lot of additions, two SkyTeam airlines didn't make the cut in today's additions:
- China Eastern: accrual and redemption won't be available until July 2023.
- ITA Airways: redemption won't be available until “later in 2023.” Update: ITA Airways awards are now bookable through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
Will Virgin Atlantic Sweet Spots Be Eliminated?
While Virgin joining SkyTeam is generally great news, some Flying Club members are still concerned about what will happen to some of the best Flying Club redemption sweet spots. For now, you can still use your Virgin points for many excellent awards, including:
- ANA business class from Japan to Europe or Central/Eastern US for 47,500 Virgin points each way plus taxes and fees.
- Air New Zealand business class awards from New Zealand to either North or South America for 125,000 Virgin points round-trip plus taxes and fees.
Both Air New Zealand and ANA are members of Star Alliance. This puts them in direct competition with many of Virgin Atlantic’s new alliance partners.
These redemptions weren't cut from the moment that Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam. Instead, all of these partners were grouped into an “other airline partners” section:
However, we got some bad news on March 7 when Virgin Atlantic Flying Club devalued ANA first class redemptions without notice.
Will the other non-alliance sweet spots remain? Or is the time nearly up for these excellent redemption options? Only time will tell.
It's generally good news to see an airline join an alliance as it gives members of the program new opportunities to earn and redeem points. And we are only seeing encouraging developments from the moment from that Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam.
However, Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam has already led to the devaluation of one excellent sweet spot: ANA first class. We can only hope that Virgin Atlantic continues to maintain its other non-alliance relationships as is and won't continue to devalue these sweet spots.
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