United’s new partnership with Virgin Australia begins May 23

May 10, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


As Australia begins to reopen to international travel, United Airlines is announcing a major new partner down under.

Beginning May 23, United and Virgin Australia will launch a partnership that will involve a reciprocal codeshare, and the ability to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles on either airline.

United has published the following chart, showing MileagePlus earnings for Virgin Australia flights that are not purchased through United:

(Screenshot from United Airlines)

Virgin Australia promises more details soon about the reciprocal benefits for members of its Velocity frequent flyer program.

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The codeshare agreement marks a major rebound for Virgin Australia, which entered voluntary administration — similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. — in April 2020 as travel plunged at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following its restructuring, a much leaner Virgin Australia was later sold to Bain Capital. As part of the new ownership, a transpacific joint venture between Virgin Australia and its then-U.S. partner, Delta Air Lines, was suspended later in 2020. The news of United’s partnership with Virgin Australia comes on the same day that Delta recommitted to investments in other foreign carriers.

Virgin Australia previously flew long-haul routes using Airbus A330s and Boeing 777-300ERs, but reorganized into a domestic carrier flying the Boeing 737 exclusively.

United will be Virgin Australia’s first codeshare under its new ownership.

United has historically had the largest footprint of any U.S. carrier in Australia. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of the major U.S. airlines, United has historically had the largest footprint in Australia. It currently serves Sydney (SYD) from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). Executives at the airline often note that United was the only airline that did not suspend its Australia service during the pandemic.

“The United States and Australia share a special bond and I’m especially proud that United was the only airline to maintain a vital link between these two countries throughout the pandemic,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “Looking ahead, Virgin Australia is 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.”

More: United Airlines is about to resume its longest flight — for now

In a press release, United also noted that it plans to resume its service to Melbourne (MEL) and its Houston (IAH)-Sydney route “later in 2022.” Prior to the pandemic, IAH-SYD was the longest route in United’s network.

“We are grateful to have such a strong partner in United,” said Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka in a statement. “They have proudly been one of Australia’s most loyal and long serving aviation partners and their market strength both to Australia and in the United States brings great value to our guests. We look forward to innovating together on behalf of our guests to ensure they have the very best travel experiences to over 90 destinations in the US.”

In addition to United, Virgin Australia recently announced a partnership with Qatar Airways. That partnership will be similar to the one with United and will feature codesharing and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.

Featured photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.

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