SkyTeam Alliance Gets Its First New Member in Years

Some good news for SkyTeam members seeking better U.K. service and access to some of the coolest airline lounges around.

Virgin Airlines

The partnership means improved connectivity to and through the United Kingdom via Virgin and partner SkyTeam airlines.

Photo by Shutterstock

The SkyTeam global flight network will soon include its first U.K. carrier. Starting in early 2023, Virgin Atlantic will join the global airline alliance—which includes Delta Air Lines, Air France, and KLM, among other international carriers—making it the first and only U.K.-based member airline and the first new carrier to join SkyTeam in eight years.

The partnership means improved connectivity to and through the U.K. via Virgin and partner SkyTeam airlines, and it also means added benefits for Virgin Atlantic frequent fliers. Once the membership becomes official in early 2023 (a precise date hasn’t been announced yet), Virgin Atlantic Silver Card holders will be recognized as SkyTeam Elite members, and the airline’s Gold Card members will become SkyTeam Elite Plus members. As such, they’ll get priority check-in and boarding.

The official union with SkyTeam isn’t too surprising given that Virgin has been synced up with Delta and Air France-KLM since February 2020 via a transatlantic joint venture partnership that includes reciprocal frequent flier benefits and the option to earn and use miles across all four carriers.

Delta, Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic are also all already located in the same terminal at London Heathrow’s Airport: Terminal 3 (along with SkyTeam members Aeromexico and China Eastern) making for easy and convenient connections. In addition to Heathrow, Virgin operates long-haul flights from Edinburgh and Manchester in the United Kingdom.

As for whether SkyTeam members will have access to the uber-cool Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounges located at London Heathrow and other global hubs, according to SkyTeam, the hope is that Elite Plus members will. “We’re working closely with Virgin Atlantic regarding access to the Clubhouses. Our ambition is that all Elite Plus members will have access to every one of the Clubhouses. We know that they are world famous and will bring significant new benefits to the relevant SkyTeam members,” SkyTeam reported on its FAQ page dedicated to the new Virgin pact.

Virgin Atlantic currently offers 12 U.S. routes, including flights to New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco. In May, the airline launched new service to Austin, Texas, and daily flights to Tampa, Florida, will kick off in November. Virgin Atlantic operates flights throughout the Caribbean, including Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, and further afield to destinations such as China, India, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa.

Code-share agreements are already in place between Virgin Atlantic and SkyTeam members Aeromexico and Middle East Airlines and more code shares are likely to follow after Virgin officially joins the network. Virgin also already has interline agreements with all SkyTeam members, meaning connecting flights can be booked on a single ticket.

The full roster of SkyTeam members is Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, ITA Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and XiamenAir. Russian national carrier Aeroflot’s membership is currently suspended.

Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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