Virgin Australia drops Delta for new United Airlines partnership

United Airlines will become Virgin's partner for flights to the USA and South America.

By David Flynn, December 14 2021
Virgin Australia drops Delta for new United Airlines partnership

Virgin Australia will end its long-standing relationship with Delta Air Lines in early 2022, with United Airlines stepping in to become Virgin's new US partner.

Commencing in April 2022, the alliance will include codeshare flights as well as reciprocal loyalty benefits for members of Virgin's Velocity Frequent Flyer and United's MileagePlus programs.

Those perks will include earning Velocity points and status credits on UA flights plus access to United Club lounges; United's elite tier members will gain access to Virgin lounges when they head down under.

Other shared benefits for top-tier Velocity and Mileage Plus members will include priority check-in, priority boarding, priority baggage delivery and a higher checked baggage allowance, and priority security clearance.

It’s not the only airline partnership Virgin Australia has embarked upon this year, inking a new codeshare with Qatar Airways in May 2022 which, similar to United, will open the domestic and international networks of both carriers.

Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers will have access to United Club lounges.
Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers will have access to United Club lounges.

In announcing the partnership this morning Virgin was quick to trumpet United's greater reach into Australia compared to Delta's solitary Sydney-Los Angeles route.

United Airlines runs daily flights from Sydney to both Los Angeles and San Francisco, with flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Sydney to Houston, "expected to resume later in 2022."

"The United States is a key market for Virgin Australia, and we know Australians are excited to be able to travel overseas again, so we’ve created hundreds of new ways they can do that through United's extensive services to and from Australia," said Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

For his part, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby described Virgin Australia as "the perfect partner for United. Our partnership provides considerable commercial value for both airlines and a shared commitment to offer the best travel experience for our customers."

United's Australia-US flights will increasingly feature its latest Polaris business class seat.
United's Australia-US flights will increasingly feature its latest Polaris business class seat.

ET review: United Airline Polaris business class (Sydney-San Francisco)

Virgin says it "will honour all Delta customer bookings, and all Delta customers booked on Virgin Australia services will continue to enjoy all current benefits of the partnership. Velocity and SkyMiles Points/miles and Status Credit earn and redemption will also continue."

A spokesperson for Delta told Executive Traveller the airline will continue flying between Sydney and Los Angeles despite the loss of longtime joint venture partner Virgin Australia.

Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of international network and alliances, told Executive Traveller the partnership with Virgin Australia was a logical fit.  

“We are the longest-serving US carrier in Australia, and the largest US carrier flying to Australia, so it just made sense for us to have an Australian partner.”

We both started talking to each other a couple months back, and it just goes to show how quickly this moved. Normally these partnerships take a lot longer to be able to cement, but this was really done in a couple of months.”

Will Virgin ever return to LAX?

United's extensive trans-Pacific network is sure to increase speculation that Virgin won't resume its own flights to Los Angeles after the long-range Boeing 777 jets were dropped in August 2020 as part of a sweeping 'rescue, rightsize and reboot' plan by Virgin's new owners Bain Capital.

Speaking earlier this month at an Australian aviation summit, Virgin boss Hrdlicka said "whether we go back in with long-haul flying ourselves is an open question...but if not, we will work with partners" to serve those markets.

We're also starting the timer on the inevitable "Will Virgin Australia join Star Alliance?" questions in 3, 2, 1...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 47

Hi David

Any word on when we might see changes to the relationship with Singapore Airlines - specifically when you might be able to transfer velocity points back to SQ?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 604

And vice-versa, when we might be able to transfer ex-Velocity points that fled AUS in 2020, back to VA for redemption on the VA-UAL flights?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

Why would you transfer back? Your losing points each transaction and you can just get United reward seats through SQ KrisFlyer anyway.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2547

No.

30 Aug 2019

Total posts 23

Wow, wasn't expecting this! 

I know the 'Virgin joining Star Alliance' conversation happens every few months, but with Delta out of the way, I can't see much stopping Virgin joining now (besides money of course). The only other possible issue would be the Air NZ / QF partnership.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

NZ does have a power of veto under Star rules as a foundation member though, if LH and UA wanted VA in Star, then I assume pressure would come onto NZ to accept VA into the alliance.

I'm not sure whether VA wants to join Star given Bain are very cost conscious but their bilateral alliances have made them a virtual member anyway.

30 Aug 2019

Total posts 23

Wasn't NZ's problem with the Borghetti management of their airline? Maybe NZ are more open to working with VA under the new leadership?

With Singapore, Air Canada, South African, ANA (if that restarts) and now United all part of Star Alliance, it does seem like it could happen. 

I just don't see any other reason why VA would ditch Delta after 10+ years.. I'm neither for or against alliances, more just curious to see the direction VA plans on heading..

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

Given all those bilateral partnerships you list are already in place, you'd have to wonder what benefit actual Star membership would bring.  It's not as if a connection with Lufthansa or SAS is a must have here on the other side of the world.

07 May 2015

Total posts 35

"I just don't see any other reason why VA would ditch Delta after 10+ years."

I thought the reason is pretty obvious and it has nothing to do with Virgin joining Star Alliance. Delta only flew SYD-LAX. United flies SYD-LAX, SYD-SFO, MEL-LAX and as a bonus SYD-IAH (Houston). This makes it easier for Virgin to walk away from operating its own flights to LAX because Delta was not a suitable replacement for those, but United certainly is.

Looking at it another way, Virgin used to compete with United for SYD-LAX and MEL-LAX, and to an extent it 'competed' with Delta too for SYD-LAX. Now Virgin can walk away from the high cost of having its own LAX flights and still give loyal VA flyers a partnership-based option via UA. This is financially better for Virgin and Bain, and from a market share perspective it's better for United.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

@Tony Boyd, the Armchair picked this 12 - 18 months ago mate....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 604

Hubris, UU&A, hubris.  That came awfully close to a "I told you so", without crossing that thin line.   Your herculean self restraint was noticed, appreciated and acknowledged !!    :-)

31 May 2018

Total posts 11

United has far more depth to it’s services to Australia than Delta. And should virgin not offer long haul to USA again, United seems a far better fit. 

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 152

Probably makes no difference to most of us. As a Qantas flyer I enjoy the AA partnership via Oneworld.  United and Delta aren't the same quality as AA anyway, in my opinion.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

All 3 US majors are pretty ordinary by world standards.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 64

Big difference between UA and AA at the moment is customer experience, particularly UAs flexibility and customer support. UA mobile app functionality and 'agent on demand'-type services are streets ahead based. 

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 234

Looking like the stars are aligning - literally.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 64

Lost me as a customer now. Guess United meets the classy bogan Virgin are going for. Assume they're seen all the great publicity United gets for customer service & thought they were a perfect match. 

Good luck to all those who fly with Virgin.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

You have a personal vendetta against VA, but understand Qantas has their share of classy bogans - think tank tops and singlets and tatoos on show in business class..atleast they banned thongs in the lounge...but a lot of the Qantas "bogans" stem from the mining/FIFO perks where the weekly flying has made them all platinums.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 379

Definitely didn't see this one coming! But it makes sense especially if Virgin has no plans to restart flights to the USA, and I think that's now a foregone conclusion. I wouldn't even be surprised to see United announce Brisbane-Los Angeles flights next year.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1248

Yes, I think this is a good sign that there is no short/medium turn plan for VA international widebodies. Makes sense anyway at the moment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 319

Unlikely that UA will be spending the CapEx to operate their own metal into BNE for the foreseeable future.   

The only chance of UA entering BNE in the short term is if the Queensland Government gets involved with waving their Aviation Attract Investment Fund (AAIF) fund in front them.

It seems that UA (for now) are content with planning to send BNE/Queensland pax via SYD/MEL on VA, and to some lesser extent NZ wins out with sending those that don't want to go via "SYD/MEL" through AKL with the separate NZ partnership.

30 Aug 2018

Total posts 11

Wasn’t expecting this new partnership. Sad to see DL go but with the new UA alliance, will VA be joining Star 🙏

Yes, I think we can put to bed any thoughts of Virgin bringing back LAX flights. Personally I prefer Delta's A350 and the Delta One suites, but United's Polaris is pretty good too. Let's face it, anybody complaining about business class which has a flat bed and direct aisle access and decent food is edging into 'first world problem' territory.

I did a bit of flying around the USA in 2018 and 2019, was on Delta and United and American depending on routes and pricing and timing and connections, as well as a bit of Alaska on the west coast and also JetBlue. I have to say, while some United Club lounges are a bit dire, a number of them at bigger hubs have been updated and are pretty good for what they are.

Feels like a downgrade, a tiny one but one nevertheless.

What I am interested in is the QLD gov't thoughts on their investment to keep Virgin based in Brisbane and yet with long haul out the window Qantas now have an monopoly on Japan and USA out of BNE.

Can't think of a obligatory Star Alliance comment.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2547

“Can't think of a obligatory Star Alliance comment.” - you’re simply not trying hard enough, George! 😂 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 468

The Queensland Government investment was all about jobs in Queensland. VA not flying long-haul international has a minimal impact on staffing numbers overall.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 604

Well . . . . I guess that's an end to VAs 'Double Status Credits' deals on flights between AUS and USA.  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Jun 2014

Total posts 10

It took Delta Sky Club staff about 10 years to learn what Velocity is and that Virgin Australia is indeed a Delta partner. I wonder how long it will take United Club Lounge staff 🤔

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 655

From the least of the North American 'evils', Delta(who are actually not too bad), to the worst-United. Pass.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 63

Can we now suggest that SYD's new owners rearrange it into a Qantas (or OneWorld?) terminal and an everyone-else terminal, and finally offer a world-class walkable transit in both places?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 230

Once again people leaping to conclusions about Virgin and Star Alliance, although I don't blame you because it would be good to see, but let's be realistic. Bain will only join Star Alliance if it sees this move as making financial and business sense.

This is actually as it should be of course, but the numbers have got to add up. We don't know how much it costs to join Star Alliance or to remain a member, along with the 'costs' involved in things like reciprocal award seat availability.

But if Bain can see that enough visitors to Australia from Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, EVA Air etc etc will choose to fly with Virgin because of mutual Star Alliance membership, and that those people will in turn generate $X of revenue and profit, then Bain will no doubt look at joining Star Alliance. It's all going to come down to what the Excel spreadsheet says!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

There's way more to it then what you state above - does it make business sense for them even if it comes at a cost... joining Star to eliminate the Qantas and Air NZ tie up currently? Air NZ won't be at a loss but Qantas would suffer with no trans Tasman partnership - is that in virgins best interest? I'd say so.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 319

VA hypothetically joining Star would not necessarily mean it eliminates the QF/NZ codeshare partnership.  Many airlines have partnerships outside of their Alliances, such as CX/NZ, SQ/GA and of course QF/NZ.

If NZ feels the codeshare partnership earns more revenue than the former VA JV, they won't hesitate to hold onto the QF partnership.

It's a matter whether the basic VA interline and FF recognition (as part of the package of joining the Star Alliance) adds to the bottom line for NZ alongside their existing QF partnership.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

Reminds me of Air Berlin which was linked to Virgin Australia and also Qantas, imagine a Virgin Platinum flying on an Air New Zealand ticket on Qantas metal

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 155

COVID hasn't been kind to Virgin, who have a pretty weak offer currently, and I say this as a long term Plat. I'd be more likely to book Qantas currently for international. Star Alliance would probably tilt that back in Virgin's favour.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

Doesn't really matter if Air New Zealand veto Virgin becoming a Star Alliance member, other airlines in Star Alliance are allowed to have private deals.

Well Done to Virgin again. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 319

Let's not forget that Bain are conservative CapEx wise.  

Bain would also have the 'power' to ask the Star Alliance to reduce their joining fees and expenses, should they be interested, and can easily put up a decent argument such as 'You need use more than we need you, so please reduce our fees" (Australian feed) if they thought the CapEx required for Alliance membership makes a decent return on investment.

If it's cheaper to remain outside without the fees of Alliance membership, Bain won't hesistate to keep VA outside.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 604

You postulate a truly clever negotiation strategy, and now that's its been published, one hopes that VA2 read it, understand it and adopt it.  Hope you get a little 'earn' from them, DanV.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 319

The other alternative Boeing-Tragic, is the Star Alliance Connecting Partners model. 
Whilst cheaper to join Connecting Partners, it's basically a 'pick and chose' model that Juneyao and Thai Smile (regional subsidiary of TG) use, without the expenses of connecting to the whole Alliance.  

Connecting Partners would allow those members to maintain a 'close' partnership with Star Alliance without actually going through the applications and spending the CapEx to become a 'full member'

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 344

Good news - finally I can earn MileagePlus miles in AU  and hopefully keep up my 1K status (although that's already been extended to 01. 2023)

Whilst i'm not a fan of VA as of late after several flights this year in Business Class it may mean I will fly them more often  and forgo the Qantas thing.

As for how UA are in the Us precovid i was a frequent intra USA traveller on UA  transcon EWR (previously JFK) and LAX/SFO, and Polaris which replaced the old P.S. is not too bad at all. Their lounges dramatically improved in terms of food and beverage choices in the US.  Also invariably used UA SYD -SFOvv  or MEL-SFO vv even in the old days with UA Global First.

Personally have never flown Delta, but AA a few times on transcontinental JFK-SFO/LAX  in First   with Flagship First and Flagship Dining room access and AA are better than UA here

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 147

Points earn is covered in the article. What about burn? Will I be able to use United Mileage Plus miles to book reward flights on VA?

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

21 May 2018

Total posts 9

Curious if this means the Amex Platinum will no longer be a ticket to Virgin Lounges. In the US it had the same privileges with Delta...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2016

Total posts 4

So when will we be able to book reward flights on UA with Virgin points ?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 65

From my reading of the letter received from Virgin, you will be able to redeem virgin points on United flights from the start of the agreement which starts in April 2022.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 344

hope it is other star alliance flights  available on UAL.com website too! Favourite sweetspot for me is TLV-ZRH-MXP  in C on Swiss, still only 50K Miles (mind you you can get it with Krisflyer miles for 29K but higher taxes)  stay in Zuerich and the next morning fly to Milan Malpensa for a day of outlet shopping  and buy a cheap flight back to Zuerich on Swiss again 

05 Dec 2017

Total posts 13

Newark as the NYC hub? Hard pass. Delta was ordinary by global standards but top of the majors in the US. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 344

Too true! UA  used to have PS flights from JFK T7  They sold their slots and they lost a lot of transcon business and contracts - then they wanted to buy the slots back but no go - Newark is a bit like LAX   - bad airports with terrible airport service and poor transport options  - but hey at least with UA you can fly transpacific into/out of San Francisco which is far more civilised  than schlepping through LAX

01 Jun 2017

Total posts 8

I don't see how this would work 

Delta  KLM AIR FRANCE VIRGIN ATLANTIC  are partners    Virgin Australia  & Virgin Atlantic are the same airlines owned by the same people     Virgin Atlantic is Virgin Australia but Virgin Atlantic is based in London   UK 

i can fly 

London to Los Angeles -Virgin  Atlantic 

Los Angeles to Sydney -  Delta Airlines 

Sydney to Brisbane - Virgin Australia 

on the same booking    how would this work  if Delta & Virgin Australia aren't codeshare partners 

i don't see how this would work anyway  if Delta & Virgin Atlantic are partners on flights from US to UK and more                Virgin Australia & Virgin Atlantic are partners 

YES   Delta & Virgin Atlantic are partners  on flights  from US to UK  and more 

YES Virgin Australia & Virgin Atlantic are Brother & Sister 

if Delta & Virgin Australia end their code share   what does this mean for Delta & Virgin Atlantic flights    

Virgin Atlantic  is code share with Delta & Virgin Australia       what does this mean for Delta & Virgin Atlantic 

Virgin Atlantic sells flights for both Delta & Virgin Australia   what does it mean if Virgin Australia & Delta end their code share 


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