Delta, Virgin Australia pause Joint Venture partnership

The close alliance between Delta and Virgin Australia will be shelved until Virgin Australia returns to Los Angeles.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 9 2020
Delta, Virgin Australia pause Joint Venture partnership

Virgin Australia’s Joint Venture relationship with Delta Air Lines is being put on ice, following Virgin’s decision to halt its Los Angeles flights and retire its Boeing 777 fleet.

While the Joint Venture (JV) remains paused, the airlines will continue codesharing on each other’s flights: but returning to a full commercial partnership would only be possible if Virgin Australia returned to Los Angeles.

For that, Virgin would need to order a new type of aircraft, such as the Boeing 787, to replace the Boeing 777s exiting its fleet.

Speaking exclusively with Executive Traveller on the sidelines of this month’s CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, Clare Black, Delta’s General Manager of Australia, New Zealand and the Virgin Australia Joint Venture, confirms that “the JV is reliant on Virgin Australia flying to LA again.”

“That’s why we’re saying we’re pausing the relationship,” as opposed to terminating it, “because we both anticipate that Virgin Australia will fly to Los Angeles again: and when that happens, we look forward to restarting the Joint Venture.”

“We’ve remained in very close contact with Virgin Australia throughout the whole COVID-19 pandemic and Virgin’s administration process, and they do remain a very long-term strategic partner for us,” Black assures.

Delta flying solo across the Pacific

With Virgin Australia not currently serving Los Angeles, Delta’s own flights between Sydney and LA will continue as planned, with Virgin Australia codesharing on those services and beyond across North America.

Currently running three days each week, Delta’s Sydney-LAX route gets a bump to five weekly flights from October 2 2020, ahead of a swap from Delta’s current Boeing 777s to the modern Airbus A350s from October 25.

The A350 offers a very similar experience in business class (Delta One) and premium economy (Delta Premium Select) as the Boeing 777, with private suites and reclining seats, respectively, which the airline plans to bring back to a daily service from 2021.

The Delta One aboard the Airbus A350 resembles the Boeing 777, as currently flies to Sydney.
The Delta One aboard the Airbus A350 resembles the Boeing 777, as currently flies to Sydney.

ET review: Delta One Suites business class, Sydney-Los Angeles

With Virgin Australia withdrawing its own flights to the United States – including routes from Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles, on which Delta previously codeshared – it poses the question whether Delta would expand its network to cover the gap.

However, while Delta “always continues to monitor opportunities to expand our network globally … given the current environment we’re operating in, there are really no plans to look at any new routes at this point in time,” Black imparts.

Delta’s interim partnership with Virgin Australia

When Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer members do travel with Delta – and likewise, when Delta SkyMiles members fly with Virgin Australia – the experience for frequent flyers will remain similar as before, albeit with a few short-term compromises.

For example, “those that are eligible to access lounges will still be able to do so,” Black confirms, although Virgin Australia lounge access for eligible Delta SkyMiles members remains paused for now: as it does for Velocity members, given the lounges themselves remain closed.

Read: What's the future of Virgin Australia’s airport lounges?

Similarly, Delta SkyMiles members can still earn and burn miles on Virgin Australia flights, and Velocity members can earn Velocity Points (and status credits) – but currently, not burn Velocity Points – on Delta services.

“When Virgin Australia went into administration, they did have to make changes to their Velocity program,” Black acknowledges, which included blocking new points-based bookings on Delta and other partner airline flights: a restriction that remains in effect.

Being able to book Delta flights using Velocity Points once more – as well as using Velocity Points to upgrade on Delta, as was possible prior to COVID-19 – “all depends on what happens moving forward with Bain Capital,” Virgin Australia's buyer.

For now, Velocity members can continue “to earn Velocity Points (on Delta) … and Velocity elites will still get benefits” on Delta flights that they’ve enjoyed in the past, such as Sky Priority check-in, security screening and boarding, as well as lounge access and more.

Delta remains open to restoring its frequent flyer partnership with Velocity in full, and continuing with that partnership, Black confirms, with the ball now in Bain Capital’s court.

Also read: Virgin Australia plots its return to New Zealand, USA

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 27

The question for me is: If I book on Delta thru Virgin, will I earn Velocity Status Credits as well as points?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 64

I've noted that you will earn Velocity points, but no mention of status credits? 

Was hoping to use my credits with Delta to top up my status credits next year since plans were canned on COVID's account.

Hi both - status credits remain on the table, so we've tweaked the article to highlight this. 

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 27

Thanks, Chris :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 307

Sounds like there may be a bit more to the story as things can change within the next 12 months - 2 years, however won't be welcome news for the "Star Alliance" folk and/or UA flyers wanting VA to "dump DL" in the short term.

Probably safe to say Alliances (in general) are off the cards for the next 2 years at least.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 247

Hi Chris more out of curiosity, but using the same logic does this technically mean the AA Qantas joint venture is paused at the moment too? 

Not that it means much given both are in oneworld but I think QF said they are not flying to USA until end of 2021 but AA are starting again soon.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 363

I would say Qantas (and AA) has simply made a temporary schedule variation to its USA services in response to CV19 and has the capacity to reinstate flights once they deem it viable, and this is aimed at mid 2021, so no change to the QF/AA JV. The situation with Virgin is very different, they no longer have the capacity to operate flights to USA with the permanent withdrawal of 777 (and 330) from their fleet so a JV on the route is not realistically feasible.

KW72: That would be a business decision for Qantas and American to make, just as this was a business decision between Delta and Virgin Australia.

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 10

Can anyone advise if and when Virgin Australia honestly  look like resuming Long Haul (Los Angeles etc) flights, 2021,2022 ,2023 or are they whistling "Dixie" in the wind, can they please be upfront with the public especially with those who remain loyal to them and await fervently to fly with them especially  on long haul flights , as they were great experiences and the crews are second to  none. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 72

I have reliable sources saying they will have the same allegiance as Virgin Atlantic, except to balance things out, Virgin Atlantic will join SkyTeam while Virgin Australia will join Star Alliance. 

This means, expect all SkyTeam airlines and those leaning to SkyTeam, to switch from Qantas to Virgin Australia. This switch will allow Qantas to behave like a real oneworld member, aka JV American, JAL, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, IAG plus Finnair, and hosting China Southern and Emirates.

This changes Singapore Airlines, who has been faking it as the SkyTeam airline to Australia (they take CZ, MU, CA, CX, AF, KL etc  because who's gonna fly Qantas or Etihad or Emirates when you've got SQ as a choice), and they will finally have a chance to become a real Star Alliance airline.

Virgin Australia's goals aside from returning to its Virgin Blue NWC roots, is towards Southeast Asia and India/ Pakistan. I doubt they will fly transpacific (because Virgin Atlantic is supposed to do London Melbourne Paris to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth nonstop, and via Hong Kong and Los Angeles, and eventually, connecting the dots with Virgin Atlantic's network. Cathay Pacific was supposed to turn into Virgin Pacific, but I'm not sure if they're still part of the plan.

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