Virgin Atlantic will join SkyTeam, the world’s second-largest global alliance. It’s an inevitable development, especially given Delta owns 49% of the carrier. It’ll be the only British airline in the alliance. While the exact point at which it joins is currently unconfirmed, SkyTeam’s CEO said that he hopes it’ll be the end of January.

Virgin will be a relative minnow among SkyTeam members. However, it will give the alliance much greater access to London Heathrow and some of the world’s largest and most important long-haul routes.

Virgin’s 32 routes in February

In February, Virgin Atlantic will serve 32 routes. Most are nonstop, but a handful in the Caribbean are one-stop. All will be from London Heathrow and Manchester, with flights from Edinburgh and Belfast International resuming later next year.

Virgin, whose first A330neo flight is soon, has said more Heathrow routes are coming in 2023. While there are no more details, it’ll be interesting to see if these are in addition to, or instead of, some existing markets, especially if new opportunities are more relevant to SkyTeam. Non-core markets introduced during the pandemic, such as Pakistan, might be vulnerable.

Virgin Atlantic's February 2023 route network

This shows Virgin’s route network in February 2023. No Far East destination is down to be served before the end of March. Image: OAG.

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SkyTeam flights: from 5% to 37%

As of September 27th and across all airlines, Virgin’s 32 routes have over 2,800 flights in February, according to Cirium data. Currently, SkyTeam has a tiny presence on them: just five in every 100 flights. That’s because the alliance is on just four of the 32 routes: Delta from Heathrow to Atlanta, Boston, New York JFK, and Seattle.

It isn’t surprising that, with nearly half of all services, British Airways and oneworld are dominant. However, oneworld serves only 20 of the 32 airport pairs, and the dominance is driven heavily by the high frequency of Heathrow-JFK.

Analyzing schedules shows that oneworld will, of course, remain key, but the gap with SkyTeam will narrow significantly, including on core routes. However, it means fewer ‘independent’ operations, with Norse Atlantic (and others) fighting hard for that market at Gatwick.

32 routes: February Current situation: no Virgin in SkyTeam Virgin in SkyTeam
SkyTeam 5.3% of flights 37.3% of flights
oneworld 46.7% of flights 46.7% of flights
Star Alliance and airlines in no alliance 48.0% of flights 16.0% of flights

Major markets

SkyTeam will access some of the world’s major nonstop markets, although most aren’t enormous SkyTeam airports. Currently, the alliance has no nonstop flights from Heathrow to the likes of Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Mumbai, and Delhi. Instead, they’re served by oneworld, Star Alliance, Virgin Atlantic, or those in no alliance (Vistara to Delhi).

The following shows how SkyTeam’s presence would change. It’d overtake Star Alliance in all six markets and have half the presence of oneworld. Across the six markets:

  • Miami: SkyTeam would have 33% of flights
  • Delhi: 31%
  • Los Angeles: 25%
  • San Francisco: 20%
  • Washington Dulles: 18%
  • Mumbai: 18%
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner G-VCRU

SkyTeam has no flights between London Heathrow and Delhi, but in February would have two of the market’s five to seven daily. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

What about Heathrow-JFK?

When writing, SkyTeam (Delta) has 56 of February’s 499 nonstop flights – 11 in every 100 – in this significant market. When its immunized joint venture and partner Virgin becomes a SkyTeam member, the alliance’s share will jump to 34%.

Are you pleased that Virgin is joining SkyTeam? Let us know in the comments.


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