Virgin Atlantic will join the SkyTeam airline alliance from early 2023, when it will become the group’s first and only UK-based carrier.
The move of long-haul specialist Virgin Atlantic will give SkyTeam a much bigger presence in the crucial European hub of London Heathrow airport, with airline CEO Shai Weiss saying ‘SkyTeam being in London is a big deal’ .
The decision was announced at a press conference in the City of London on Tuesday (September 27), with Weiss adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had taught Virgin the importance of partnership in the aviation industry.
“The strength of any business is enhanced by a partnership,” Weiss said. “We have said every year since 2014 that we are getting closer to SkyTeam and now there is no reason to say no.
“Our membership will allow us to enhance the relationships established with our valued partners at Delta and Air France-KLM, as well as open up opportunities for collaboration with new airlines. This will enable a seamless customer experience, with an extended network and maximized loyalty benefits. »
Virgin Atlantic already has interlining agreements with SkyTeam’s current 18 member airlines, as well as codeshares with carriers such as Aeromexico and Middle East Airlines.
“Further codeshares will follow in the coming months,” Weiss added. “That’s an important factor for us – we want to increase our travelers’ ability to travel seamlessly.”
Joining SkyTeam will give Virgin Atlantic passengers access to more than 1,000 destinations worldwide, as well as more than 750 airport lounges. They will also have “more opportunities” to earn and redeem loyalty points among alliance members.
Virgin is a founding partner in a transatlantic joint venture with key SkyTeam members Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM.
Weiss stressed the importance of taking this joint venture to the “next level,” which meant any plans to revive a short-haul food service had “been melted for some time.”
“We had the aspiration of a short-haul network to Manchester and Heathrow, but that is likely to be delayed indefinitely. It might come back one day,” Weiss said at the press conference.
Weiss also ruled out Virgin Atlantic returning to London Gatwick in 2023, although JV partner Delta announced earlier this week that it would restart flights from London’s second airport in summer 2023 for the first time in more than a decade.
“I’m glad Delta is flying to Gatwick – we’ve focused our efforts on Heathrow and it’s paid off for customers as it’s more efficient and has more connectivity,” Weiss added.
While praising Gatwick for the way it had operated over the busy summer, he added that the problem for the airport was the lack of connectivity to power Virgin’s long-haul flights.
“Virgin Atlantic is not in the plans for 2023 to fly from Gatwick,” Weiss confirmed.
SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile said she was “delighted” to welcome Virgin Atlantic to SkyTeam, which will become the first new airline to join the alliance in more than eight years.
“Virgin Atlantic will benefit from increased opportunities to expand its global network through partnerships and synergies: customers will have more ways to earn and burn miles while enjoying the service that Virgin Atlantic is known for,” added Colville.