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.
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."
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...