Virgin Atlantic Joins SkyTeam
As previously announced, Virgin Atlantic officially joined the SkyTeam alliance on March 2, 2023. When this was first announced, we shared our take, which included some potentially good news and some potentially bad news. Now that Virgin Atlantic has officially joined SkyTeam, let’s take a look at what this actually means.
As most of us predicted, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points can now be redeemed for flights on fellow SkyTeam airlines. Of course, we could already do that for flights on Delta, Air France, and KLM. But we will now be able to redeem Virgin Atlantic points with the remaining SkyTeam airlines, except for China Eastern and ITA Airways, which are expected later in 2023, according to Virgin.
Of these airlines, the following can be booked online:
- Air France*
- China Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Xiamen Air
* For Air France and KLM, keep in mind that while online bookings are technically possible, Virgin Atlantic’s phone reps have confirmed that these bookings have been leading to errors. They have instead advised that travelers call Virgin to book awards involving any flight on Air France or KLM.
We’re particularly excited about being able to redeem Virgin points on Korean. Ever since Korean ceased to be a Chase transfer partner in 2018, it became much harder to travel on points with Korean.
Flying Club members can now also earn Flying Club points and Tier points with these SkyTeam airlines. Again, they could already do so with Delta, Air France, and KLM.
Virgin Atlantic SkyTeam Award Chart
Virgin has adopted an award chart for its new SkyTeam partners (Delta, Air France, and KLM have retained separate award charts). The new distanced-based award chart is pretty straightforward (all prices are one-way):
Unfortunately, first class redemptions are not available. This means you cannot redeem Virgin points for first class travel on the likes of Korean or Garuda.
This award chart isn’t particularly exciting at first glance. Eventually folks might start to discover some sweet spots based on where the different SkyTeam members are based. Short hops around Southeast Asia for 5,500 points on Vietnam Airlines, perhaps? At the very least, we can continue to take advantage of frequent transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic from any of its bank transfer partners.
Lap Infants Cost Stays The Same
Thankfully, Virgin has retained the same costs for lap infants that it charges on other award flights. Adding a lap infant (under two years of age at the time of travel) to an award booking requires 1,000 points in economy, 3,000 points in premium economy, and 5,000 in business class. Virgin’s website does not mention any taxes and fees associated with these lap infant costs, but they traditionally have charged taxes and fees for lap infants, so we would assume they continue to do so.
Virgin Atlantic Joins SkyTeam: What About Other Partner Awards??
The award travel community breathed a huge sigh of relief on this one. Virgin has retained its awards with other non-SkyTeam partners. Of course, the big one here is ANA offering the best sweet spot in award travel.
Unfortunately, though, Virgin’s award chart for ANA increased prices for first class to/from the US. Flights from the East Coast to Japan increased from 120,000 points round-trip in first class to 170,000 points. For Canada and the West Coast, first class prices increased from 110,000 points round-trip to 145,000 points. Thankfully, business class prices remain the same.
These increases are definitely a big bummer. But these are still good rates. By comparison, United charges 220,000 miles for round-trip on ANA between the US and Japan. Also, considering that many expected the partnership to go away entirely, we’re relieved to see it remain, despite the devaluation.
Virgin Atlantic Joins SkyTeam: ToP Thoughts
Overall, Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam is a positive development so far. Virgin Atlantic having award access to SkyTeam airlines offers a great option for travelers looking to fly on SkyTeam. Before this, Delta and Flying Blue were the only really viable options. In addition, Virgin Atlantic has lots of transfer partners, making Flying Club miles easy to earn. The new award chart isn’t offensive, and offers even better value during a transfer bonus. And although Virgin has retained its partnerships with non-SkyTeam airlines, it has unfortunately increased the costs for first class redemptions while leaving business class redemptions the same.
Lastly, for the Avgeeks among us, Virgin stated on its website that they will not have any aircrafts branded with a SkyTeam livery.
What do you think about Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam? Come share your thoughts in our Facebook group!