What benefits will SkyTeam membership bring, and can we expect to see any new routes as a result?
Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will join SkyTeam on March 2nd, 2023, becoming the alliance’s first and only UK member airline. It was confirmed back in September 2022 that the carrier would be joining the alliance, and now with less than one month to go until this historic moment, the final preparations behind the scenes are well underway.
The move represents the first time that a British airline has joined an alliance since the now-defunct British Midland International became a member of Star Alliance in 2002. Prior to that, British Airways was one of the founding members of oneworld in 1999.
The carrier is already part of a joint venture with Delta Air Lines, Air France, and KLM, which has provided a boost to the carrier’s Transatlantic operations in particular. Now, thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s membership, SkyTeam’s presence will grow significantly at the airline’s home base – London Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Photo: Croatorum | Shutterstock
SkyTeam is currently the second-largest global airline alliance by passengers carried, and as part of the alliance, all passengers benefit from better connectivity across the member airlines. Members of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, meanwhile, will also gain access to a host of alliance-wide benefits, such as entry to SkyTeam lounges, priority check-in and boarding, and additional baggage allowance. Flying Club members will also be able to earn and redeem Virgin Points across other member airlines’ frequent flyer programs, and vice versa.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has two tiers – Silver and Gold. Flying Club Silver will be the equivalent of SkyTeam Elite, while Flying Club Gold will line up with SkyTeam Elite Plus. For members of the latter, lounge access is a key perk, although it is not yet known if SkyTeam Elite Plus members will gain access to Virgin Atlantic’s exclusive Clubhouse, or whether they will need to use an alternative lounge.
SkyTeam is also currently working on an alliance-wide upgrade to its booking system that will allow passengers to book flights through any of its member airlines’ websites – something that is already possible with oneworld.
Virgin Atlantic recently announced its return to Shanghai (PVG), where passengers will now be able to seamlessly connect with fellow SkyTeam member China Eastern Airlines. Services will resume on May 1st, and will be operated by the airline’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Photo: Arseniy Shemyakin | Shutterstock
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive officer, Shai Weiss, said that the airline “will launch several new routes as a result of the decision to join SkyTeam and to connect with airlines in the alliance.” But what might these new routes from London Heathrow be? While no official announcement has been made, there are a number of potential candidates, including:
- Seoul (ICN) – to connect with Korean Air. British Airways used to fly the route, but stopped at the start of the pandemic, and currently has no plans to resume it, leaving a gap in the market.
- Mexico City (MEX) – to connect with Aeroméxico. The UK-Mexico market has boomed recently, and this summer, British Airways’ services will increase from five weekly to daily, highlighting the potential for further growth.
- Buenos Aires (EZE) – to connect with Aerolíneas Argentinas’ extensive domestic and regional network.
- Nairobi (NBO) – to connect with Kenya Airways. This would not be the first time that Virgin Atlantic has flown to Nairobi – the carrier used to operate to the Kenyan capital using its Airbus A340-300 aircraft.
What do you think of Virgin Atlantic’s decision to join SkyTeam? Which new routes do you expect the airline to announce as a result of joining the alliance? Share your thoughts by commenting below.
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- London Heathrow Airport
- Year Founded:
- Shai Weiss
- United Kingdom
- Business Type:
- Airline Alliance
- Date Founded:
- Kristin Colvile
- Headquarters Location:
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands