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In December 2012, Delta announced that they would be buying Singapore Airlines’ 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic. The 49% purchase was announced today after receiving regulatory approval by UK and US authorities within the last week. However, Delta and Virgin Atlantic still need to get full anti-trust approval to codeshare on all flights, which they expect to have towards the end of 2013.
In the meantime, they are announcing codeshares on 91 Delta flights and 17 Virgin Atlantic routes and starting on June 29, 2013 for travel on or after July 3, 2013. If you have previously booked travel, you can add your Delta/Virgin Atlantic number to your reservation, though always keep your boarding pass in case the mileage doesn’t deposit properly.
The full code-share will make the biggest impact when Delta starts counting Medallion Qualifying Dollar spend in 2014. In order for a flight to qualify, it needs to be issued on Delta ticket stock, meaning booked as the codeshare. You can still get mileage credit on all Virgin Atlantic flights, but in 2014, you’ll need to book the Delta flight number for the Medallion Qualifying Dollars to count. Read more about MQDs here.
Starting in the near future (I was told June 29th by a Delta Medallion phone rep, however a Virgin rep advised me to call back on July 3) you will be able to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Delta flights and SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic flights. This is great news because Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so there are now more options to book Delta flights without having SkyMiles (though partners like Virgin Atlantic only get access to low-tier awards, meaning availability can be slim on certain routes). American Express runs Virgin Atlantic transfer bonuses from time to time, like the recent 35% bonus, so in lieu of any Delta transfer bonuses, this might make sense for booking Delta flights.
Delta has not yet added Virgin Atlantic to their other-airline partner page, but I would guess that the redemption rates on Virgin Atlantic will be the same as their current Delta/SkyTeam award chart- so 60,000 miles for roundtrip US to Europe flights and 100,000 in Upper Class.
There were few details announced today, so we will have to wait to hear about using SkyMiles to upgrade to Premium Economy or Upper Class (business class) and how will the fees shake out. Virgin Atlantic currently levies huge fees on almost all international flights, so a simple NYC to London roundtrip can cost as much as $600 in fees! However, their mileage thresholds are lower – just 45,000 miles for economy and 90,000 for business class vs. 60,000/100,000 that Delta charges. So I will be upset to see Delta keep their higher levels and levy the same steep taxes/fees.
Here is the award chart for using Flying Club miles for Delta flights. Note: One-way awards are not permitted, unfortunately.
Delta SkyMiles members will earn 100% mileage credit on eligible Virgin Atlantic flights. They haven’t clarified which fare classes qualify for which bonus (that page is not working on Delta.com yet), but Virgin Atlantic is a tier 1 airline partner, which means you get 100% MQMs on all eligilbe fares, Medallion tier bonus as well as a 50% bonus for first/business class fares.
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub members will earn the following on Delta flights:
Business Class – 200% of miles flown
Discounted Business Class – 150% of miles flown
Domestic First Class – 150% of miles flown
Economy Class – 100% of miles flown
Flying Club Silver – 50% bonus of the base flown miles
Flying Club Gold- 100% bonus of the base flown miles
Lounge Access and Elite Benefits
- Reciprocal Delta Sky Club and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse access at applicable airports for Upper Class and BusinessElite passengers, Flying Club Gold members and SkyMiles Platinum and Diamond members
- Priority check-in, boarding, baggage handling and additional baggage allowance on all Virgin Atlantic and Delta operated flights worldwide – not just those within the codeshare agreement – for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and Flying Club Gold members as well as Delta BusinessElite and SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond members
I still have a lot of questions about this partnership and how redeeming miles will play out, so stay tuned. I’ve reached out to my Delta contacts for clarification. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get them answered.