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Big news: Virgin Atlantic is joining SkyTeam alliance

Sept. 27, 2022
5 min read
Virgin Atlantic will join the SkyTeam alliance in January 2023.
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Your Virgin Points are about to become more valuable.

Announced at a press conference in London on Tuesday morning, Virgin Atlantic will join the SkyTeam alliance in early 2023, becoming the only United Kingdom-based airline member and the first new SkyTeam member in eight years. The alliance is currently home to existing Virgin Atlantic partners Delta, Air France and KLM.

It’s hoped that Virgin Atlantic will officially become a SkyTeam member in January 2023, though both the alliance and Virgin Atlantic were careful not to commit to a specific live date. “We were shooting for the end of January. We just don’t want to overcommit at this point,” said SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile. “We have been working together on this for some time; it will probably be the beginning of 2023.”

Related: The ultimate Virgin Atlantic Flying Club guide

Given that Flying Club members can already earn and redeem Virgin Points on several SkyTeam members, why is this announcement great news? Because once Virgin joins SkyTeam, Flying Club members will have the opportunity to earn and redeem their Virgin Points on a host of new airlines, including Korean Air, Aeromexico, Vietnam Airlines, Air Europa and more among its 18 members. While Virgin’s route network is relatively small, SkyTeam airlines fly to more than 1,000 destinations globally, with the partnership opening up a slew of new airlines, routes and destinations for Flying Club members.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver and Gold members flying on SkyTeam airlines will receive a range of Elite and Elite Plus member benefits delivered under the SkyPriority brand, including additional checked baggage, priority check-in and boarding and lounge access.

In addition, Flying Club Silver members will reciprocally be recognized as SkyTeam Elite members, while Flying Club Gold members will become Elite Plus from day one of Virgin’s SkyTeam membership.

“2022 marks the year Virgin Atlantic gets back to its best for our customers and people and joining SkyTeam is an important milestone. Our membership will allow us to enhance established relationships with our valued partners at Delta and Air France-KLM, as well as open up opportunities to collaborate with new airlines. It will enable a seamless customer experience, with an expanded network and maximized loyalty benefits,” said Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss.

Weiss also teased potential new Virgin Atlantic routes to launch next year in relation to the new alliance membership. While details are still under wraps, it could make sense for the airline to fly to the hubs of SkyTeam members, including Korean Air's Incheon International Airport (ICN), Vietnam Airlines’ Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), Aeromexico’s Mexico City International Airport (MEX) and China Airlines' Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE). It is yet unknown how the new alliance membership could affect Virgin’s relationship with Star Alliance members Singapore Airlines and ANA.

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Which airlines are currently SkyTeam partners?

SkyTeam is one of the "Big Three" global airline alliances. The Oneworld alliance boasts British Airways, Qatar Airways and American Airlines as members while the Star Alliance network has a whopping 26 members including Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, United and more.

Current SkyTeam airlines are:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas.
  • Aeromexico.
  • Air Europa.
  • Air France.
  • China Airlines.
  • China Eastern Airlines.
  • Czech Airlines.
  • Delta Air Lines.
  • Garuda Indonesia.
  • ITA Airways.
  • Kenya Airways.
  • KLM.
  • Korean Air.
  • Middle East Airlines.
  • Saudia.
  • Tarom.
  • Vietnam Airlines.
  • XiamenAir.

Related: Your complete guide to SkyTeam alliance benefits

Could joining SkyTeam affect Clubhouse lounge access?

The new alliance membership creates a potential conundrum for Virgin’s Clubhouse lounges. Considered some of the best business-class lounges in the world (especially its Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3), they could suddenly become a lot more crowded as other SkyTeam elite members gain access from early 2023, though Weiss stressed that the airline would be taking steps to ensure the “customer experience doesn’t deteriorate.” The Virgin boss also said that the airline hoped to expand the size of its Heathrow Clubhouse, if the stars align, in 2023.

Prior to the pandemic, most SkyTeam members operated from Terminal 4 before a range of terminals swaps during the last two years saw members split across terminals 2, 3 and 4. Only those passengers departing from Terminal 3 will be able to access the Clubhouse, which should help with overcrowding issues.

Will Virgin Atlantic relaunch its Gatwick services with expanded routes?

Don’t bet on it happening anytime soon. While Virgin Atlantic teased the arrival of several new routes in 2023, CEO Weiss was also clear that while the airline would retain takeoff and landing slots at London’s Gatwick Aiport (LGW), Virgin Atlantic currently has no plans to return to the London hub. Weiss did however praise LGW for how it has weathered the travel chaos of recent months, saying the decision was “not a problem with Gatwick Airport and the way it operates.” Prior to the pandemic, Gatwick had served as a second base for the airline, operating to leisure destinations mainly in the Caribbean. Virgin consolidated all London operations at Heathrow during the pandemic.

Additional reporting by Jordan Waller.

Featured image by VIRGIN ATLANTIC
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023