Via Friendly Skies, Continental Airlines announced today that their partnership with Virgin Atlantic will abruptly end on 13 February. While the news was not unexpected, it also was not expected to happen so soon.
Effective February 13, 2012 we will discontinue our OnePass partnership with Virgin Atlantic. Mileage accrual benefits are valid for travel through February 13, 2012. Please refer to the Mileage Credit Request Form for information regarding obtaining missing mileage credit. OnePass reward reservations for travel on Virgin Atlantic must be confirmed and ticketed by February 13, 2012, and they are valid one year from the date ticketed.
What does this mean for Continental/United mileage holders? One less award partner–one that was generous in making award space available. You will also lose your last opportunity to redeem miles for premium travel on Virgin Atlantic without paying an exorbitant fuel surcharge.
Virgin Atlantic has been a Continental partner for years, but never teamed up with United and was squeezed out in the OnePass/MileagePlus “harmonization” process. No doubt, the creeping cost that UA/CO had to pay out for award redemptions came into play as well as the fact that Virgin Atlantic is not a Star Alliance member.
There is still time to give Virgin a try, though–you can fly all the way to Australia or South Africa or Tokyo via Europe with them and the award availability is remarkably good, at least compared to some partners. I’ve booked numerous West Coast families to London on Virgin via Los Angeles or Vancouver because their award availability on those routes has been exceptional. With only Air New Zealand and United available on the Los Angeles-London route now, the easy non-stops to London will become much harder to procure.
Space between London and Capetown, London and Shanghai, and Sydney to Hong Kong was also very easy to pick up. Unlike United, you can also combine non-Star Alliance partners (like Virgin) with other carriers when booking a Continental award, so do act fast if you want to give Virgin’s Upper Class product a try. US Airways also partners with Virgin Atlantic, but (per its membership rules) only offers economy class redemptions from “US Airways gateways”.
In addition to losing the chance to redeem your UA/CO miles for Virgin Atlantic flights, reciprocal mileage accrual will also end. Currently, you can even earn elite qualifying miles (EQMs) on Virgin Atlantic flights codeshared with Continental between the USA and London (select flights to/from Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Boston, and Miami).
So another day, another change we don’t like. I hear so many people talking–bloggers especially–about American Airlines and I am beginning to wonder if the grass may be greener on the other side…