The acquisition by Delta Air Lines of the US of a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic completed on Monday. Whilst the two carriers are still awaiting regulatory permission to combine their schedules and to co-ordinate their pricing, they have kicked off the first stage of their integration.
The ‘earn and burn’ integration starts on 3rd July. As of that day, we will see the following changes:
Virgin will place its flight number of 87 Delta routes, both UK to US and internally in the US. You will be able to book (from 29th June) either stand-alone Delta tickets or Virgin and Delta combo tickets on the Virgin website.
You will earn Flying Club miles and tier points on any Delta flight, whether or not it is a codeshare route. Flying Club Silver members earn 50% bonus base miles, Gold members earn 100% bonus base miles. The miles earning chart is here and the tier point chart is here. (Delta members will also earn on Virgin flights.)
You can redeem Flying Club miles for flights on Delta. The burning chart is here. The stand-out for me is the flat 25,000 miles for Economy and 45,000 miles for Business for US domestic flights. In some cases, this will be horrendous value on short routes. (When you redeem Avios on American Airlines flights, you pay by distance, so NYC to Boston is just 4,500 Avios.)
Delta flyers will also able to redeem for Virgin flights, using the standard Delta award chart – although weirdly it appears that Delta members will not be able to book Premium Economy redemptions! Delta also does not allow one-way redemptions.
It is not yet clear if Virgin will add fuel surcharges to Delta transatlantic redemptions, even though Delta does not charge them. It probably will – after all, BA adds fuel surcharges to American Airlines redemptions transatlantic, even though AA doesn’t charge them (BA pockets the money). The upside of this (for Virgin Flying Club members) is that it should curtail the number of Delta frequent flyers who want to redeem on Virgin.
Flying Club Gold members get priority check-in etc when flying Delta. However, no Virgin members will get Delta lounge access except when connecting to an Upper Class Virgin flight or (for Golds only) when flying transatlantic with Delta. For comparison, BA Silver and BA Gold cardholders can use AA lounges whenever they fly AA, in any class.
Certain Delta frequent flyers (Diamond and Platinum) will be able to access the Virgin Clubhouse in New York JFK when flying to the UK on either a Delta or Virgin service. This has real repercussions for what is seen as one of the worlds leading lounges, as there is no logical reason for a Delta elite to want to use the Delta lounge!
Delta is looking at ways of co-locating with Virgin at Heathrow. For now, though, Delta and Virgin will remain in separate terminals. The Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow should remain sacrosanct!
To clarify a couple of other questions which have come up elsewhere:
It will NOT be possible to merge your Virgin and Delta miles together
The Singapore Airlines relationship, allowing for redemptions and earning on Singapore Airlines flights, will remain in place even though it has sold its stake in Virgin Atlantic
Further details can be found here on the Delta website.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles? Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic, Little Red and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)