After many false starts and lots of impatient speculation (including by us!), Virgin Atlantic, Delta and Air France-KLM have finally announced a date from which you will be able to earn and burn air miles across all four airlines.
The partnership includes a transatlantic joint venture and a range of codeshares, as well as reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. This is the final piece in the puzzle after a two year saga that included the lengthy regulatory approvals process and the last minute decision by Air France-KLM not to acquire an equity stake in Virgin Atlantic.
Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website here.
Starting on 13th February, you will be able to earn and use Virgin Flying Club miles and enjoy status benefits when flying Air France and KLM. You can already do this on Delta.
This applies when travelling worldwide, regardless of whether your flight is a codeshare or not.
This means that you will be able to use any Delta, Air France or KLM lounge if you are Virgin Flying Club Gold and travelling on one of the four airlines. It will also allow you to earn both tier points, miles and status bonuses regardless of which of the four airlines you choose to fly.
(There is no word yet on whether Air France and KLM will move their European flights from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Terminal 3, to co-locate with Virgin Atlantic and Delta. One issue will be the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse which would simply be unable to cope with the influx of Flying Blue top tier members flying to Amsterdam and Paris.)
This is great news for UK-based readers, as the worldwide networks of Air France and KLM open up many more destinations globally. You will now be able to redeem your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to many parts of Africa, Asia and South America to which Virgin Atlantic does not fly.
It also opens up short haul travel via Amsterdam and Paris, which was one of Flying Club’s biggest weaknesses vs the British Airways Executive Club.
Of course, it also works the other way. Virgin Flying Club members may now choose to drop the programme and start crediting their flights to the Air France-KLM Flying Blue programme. We don’t recommend this, due to the very high prices required for Flying Blue redemptions, but the option is there.
More realistically, I would expect Flying Blue members in the UK to drop the programme and begin crediting their KLM and Air France flights to Virgin Flying Club. As long as it is equally easy to earn status in either scheme, the added ability to earn miles via the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, Tesco Clubcard points, Heathrow Rewards points and the many Virgin Flying Club partners is attractive.
Where can I fly with the new partnership?
In short, virtually anywhere. Between them, Delta, Virgin, KLM and Air France cover almost any destination you would want to go, with each airline bringing its own strengths.
Virgin Atlantic is great for flights to North America.
Delta is well positioned for flights to the US, domestic US flights and connecting flights to Central and South America
Air France has a European network as well as exceptional coverage of West Africa
KLM also has a large European network and wider coverage of South America and Asia.
Australia and the South Pacific are the notable exceptions to their coverage.
What is the earning and burning rate on Delta, Air France and KLM?
The exact terms of the partnership have not yet been announced.
In order to allow Flying Club members to redeem miles on Air France and KLM, Virgin Flying Club will have to craft some new reward charts. Key issues will be the level of taxes and charges added and whether pricing is by segment, which would be bad news as Air France and KLM redemptions from the UK will always require a change of plane, or by total distance.
We will be doing a full analysis when these are released (on February 13th at the very latest!)
One sweet spot we anticipate is with Flying Club redemptions from Paris or Amsterdam, with the traveller paying cash for the connecting flight from the UK. This would avoid the £176 of business class long-haul APD you would incur if you booked a connecting flight, much like you would flying Iberia from Madrid using Avios.
What is business class like on Delta, Air France or KLM?
On the whole, very good.
Delta was the first airline to introduce business class seats with doors onto longhaul flights when they unveiled the Delta One Suite. Here is Anika’s review of the Delta One Suite between Heathrow and Atlanta on an A330.
Air France is renowned for its La Premiere first class product. Unfortunately, Air France restricts redemptions to only its most frequent flyers. Even other SkyTeam alliance member airlines don’t get access, so don’t expect to be able to book this using your Virgin miles any time soon.
When it comes to business class, Air France’s new seat is very good (review here). The problem is that is is only available on just over half of the airline’s long haul fleet…with the remainder still featuring the legacy angled lie-flat seat in a 2-2-2 configuration.
Unfortunately, nobody on the Head for Points team has experience of KLM‘s business class, although Rob did get a tour of a Boeing 787 aircraft in 2018. The layout is 1-2-1 and is based on the same seat as Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class suite (review), albeit with fewer customisations and a different tray table layout. Rob plans on reviewing KLM business class this year.
All in all, this is great news to start the week with and we look forward to bringing you in-depth analysis over the next few weeks.
If you want to stack up on your Virgin Flying Club miles in anticipation, remember that there is currently a 25,000 mile bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card if you can spend £3,000 within 90 days. Click for our article, or apply here.
You can find out more about the joint venture on the Virgin Atlantic website here.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (November 2020)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
As well as the two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (see here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points), you can also earn from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)