Virgin Atlantic is now a member of SkyTeam — here are 6 things you need to know – The Points Guy

It’s an exciting day for Virgin Atlantic as it finally joins one of the “Big Three” global airline alliances, becoming the SkyTeam member in the United Kingdom.

Virgin Atlantic already had a joint venture with SkyTeam members Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM before formally joining the alliance. However, today it welcomes several new partners.

“We are delighted to welcome Virgin Atlantic into SkyTeam, taking an already close relationship to new heights and elevating our customer offering with more routes to exciting destinations and access to aspirational airport lounges — not to mention the airline’s world-famous flair,” said Patrick Roux, SkyTeam CEO and managing director.

He continued, “The U.K. is a key market for SkyTeam, and with Virgin Atlantic on board, customers can look forward to more opportunities to earn and redeem miles as they fly, enjoying the iconic travel experience that makes our newest member a globally loved airline.”

Here are six things you need to know about Virgin Atlantic’s SkyTeam membership.

Flying Club Elites now have SkyTeam Elite status

Virgin Atlantic elite members will have benefits on other SkyTeam carriers. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Flying Club Silver members are now also SkyTeam Elite, while Gold members are SkyTeam Elite Plus. Here are the key benefits of SkyTeam elite status:

SkyTeam Elite

  • Priority reservation waitlist.
  • Priority airport standby.
  • Priority check-in.
  • Extra baggage allowance.
  • Priority boarding.
  • Preferred seats.
  • Mileage upgrades.

SkyTeam Elite Plus

  • SkyTeam Elite benefits.
  • Guaranteed reservation.
  • SkyPriority.
  • Priority security and immigration.
  • Lounge access on international flights.
  • Priority baggage handling.

SkyTeam elite members flying Virgin Atlantic also receive benefits like lounge access (more on that below).

You can now earn Virgin points and Tier points on most SkyTeam airlines

From today, you can earn Virgin points and Tier points on the following airlines:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas.
  • Aeromexico.
  • Air Europa.
  • China Airlines.
  • Czech Airlines.
  • Garuda Indonesia.
  • ITA Airways.
  • Kenya Airways.
  • Korean Air.
  • Middle East Airlines.
  • Saudia.
  • TAROM.
  • Vietnam Airlines.
  • Xiamen Air.

This is in addition to Delta, Air France and KLM, where you can already earn Virgin points and Tier points.

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Virgin has a different points-earning table for each airline, though you can expect to earn from 25% of miles flown in discount economy up to 175% in full-fare economy.

Premium economy will earn you between 100% and 150% (partner airlines currently offering this class are Aerolinas Argentinas, Aeromexico, China Airlines, ITA and Vietnam Airlines). Business-class fares will earn between 100% and 175% of miles flown, and first class will get you between 150% and 250% (alliance airlines offering first class are Garuda, Korean, Saudia and Xiamen).

Related: Up and coming: Review of Vietnam Airlines in business on the A350 from Tokyo to Hanoi

Tier-point earning also differs by airline, though it is split between flights of under 2,000 miles in length and flights over 2,000 miles.

You can expect 10/25 Tier points in economy (under 2,000/over 2,000 miles), 20/50 in premium economy, 30/75 in business class and 40/100 in first class. As a comparison, Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Istanbul Airport (IST) is under 2,000 miles, while LHR to Cairo International Airport (CAI) is just over 2,000 miles.

You can earn Virgin points and Tier points on China Eastern beginning in July.

Vietnam Airlines. EMILY MCNUTT/THE POINTS GUY

You can now redeem Virgin points on most SkyTeam airlines, including some online

With the current exceptions of China Eastern and ITA Airways (coming later in 2023, according to Virgin Atlantic), you can now redeem Virgin points on all SkyTeam airlines.

Redemptions on SkyTeam airlines are distance-based, and you will need the following Virgin points, each way, per person on all dates (no peak/off-peak pricing):

Virgin points required
Flight distance (miles) Economy Premium economy Business
0-500. 5,500. 9,000. 14,500.
501-1,000. 7,000. 12,500. 15,500.
1,001-1,500. 10,000. 16,000. 21,500.
1,501-2,250. 11,500. 22,000. 35,000.
2,251-3,000. 15,500. 26,500. 40,000.
3,001-4,000. 20,500. 37,500. 60,000.
4,001-5,000. 25,500. 47,500. 75,000.
5,001-6,000. 31,000. 57,500. 85,000.
6,001-7,000. 37,000. 70,000. 100,000.
7,001-12,000. 50,000. 95,000. 140,000.

I can’t think of an airline in the world where every single partner redemption is available online, so it’s understandable that Flying Club members won’t be able to redeem all partners online from day one. Right now, you can only redeem Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines, China Airlines, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines and Xiamen Air online.

Air France, KLM and Delta Air Lines redemptions have been available online for some time.

If you need to top up your Flying Club account for a redemption, you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One at a 1:1 ratio.

Related: Quick Points: Use Virgin Atlantic’s new calendar search feature to find Delta partner award space

Partner redemptions are slightly lower than what British Airways charges

British Airways’ partner redemption chart divides the distances slightly differently. Still, you can expect to pay less using Virgin points on partner airlines for flights of a similar length, especially in premium cabins.

For example, for flights 3,001-4,000 miles long, BA’s Executive Club would charge 20,750 for economy, 41,250 for premium economy and 82,500 for business class each way. By comparison, Virgin Atlantic would charge 20,500 for economy, 37,500 for premium economy and 60,000 for business.

For flights over 7,000 miles, BA charges 51,500/103,000/154,500, slightly higher than Virgin charges for the same length at 50,000/95,000/140,000.

ETHAN STEINBERG/THE POINTS GUY

First-class redemptions are not available

No huge surprise here, but the new partner redemptions charts do not include first class. This means you can’t redeem your Virgin points for SkyTeam airlines who offer first class — Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Saudia and Xiamen.

Air France also offers first class but restricts redemptions to elite members of its own Flying Blue program.

Remember, you can redeem Virgin points for business class and first class on Japan’s ANA, and this remains the single best sweet spot in the Flying Club program.

Related: How to book a $20,000 ANA first-class ticket for just $34

Heathrow Clubhouse access remains strict

One of the biggest questions about Virgin’s SkyTeam integration is how elite members of partner airlines will be treated at Heathrow. Theoretically, they should be allowed entry to Virgin’s Clubhouse lounge when flying in economy or premium economy on Virgin or SkyTeam airlines.

This could cause massive crowding issues in the well-regarded Clubhouse if so many more passengers have access overnight.

Virgin has decided to deny Clubhouse entry to short-haul passengers, regardless of their status level, airline program or class of service. Those flying in business class on Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Aeromexico can access the Clubhouse.

Flying Club Gold members flying Virgin Atlantic in economy or premium can still access the lounge as they could before. Many years ago, most SkyTeam airlines operated from Terminal 4 at Heathrow. Now they are split between terminals 3 and 4. You can only access the lounges in the terminal you are departing from.

SkyTeam Elite Plus members of partner airlines flying in any class on Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Aeromexico can also visit the Clubhouse at Terminal 3.

For Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses outside the U.K., any SkyTeam Elite Plus members can access these lounges when flying on a SkyTeam airline in any class.

This seems like a reasonable balance between allowing access for SkyTeam partner members and ensuring the lounges remain comfortable for all guests.

Related: Pelotons and planespotting: Inside the reopening of Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow Terminal 3 and refreshed Clubhouse

NICKY KELVIN/THE POINTS GUY

Bottom line

This marks an exciting new chapter for Virgin Atlantic.

SkyTeam membership creates more ways to earn and redeem Virgin points with exciting new partners, especially in Asia. If you’ve ever struggled to redeem your Virgin points, you now have new destinations and airlines.

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