Virgin Atlantic, strengthening its joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines, has announced new routes that will bring the two carriers closer than ever before. With the lastest shuffle, the USA wins while Canada, India, Japan, and South Africa loses.
The new Virgin Atlantic routes include:
- A new daily service from London Heathrow to Detroit offering new connections across North and Central USA such as Cincinnati, New Orleans, Memphis and Indianapolis on Delta
- A fifth daily service from London Heathrow to New York, JFK
- An additional daily service from London Heathrow to Los Angeles
- An additional daily service during the summer season from London Heathrow to Atlanta
- An additional summer seasonal service from London Heathrow to San Francisco flying five times a week
- An additional daily service during the winter season from London Heathrow to Miami
- A daily service between Manchester and Atlanta
Delta will also take over one Virgin route and add a new MAN codeshare:
- Delta will fly one of Virgin Atlantic’s existing London Heathrow to Newark services
- Delta launch a new daily service between Manchester and New York JFK in Summer 2015
But Virgin does not have a surplus of aircraft and thus cuts were announced as well:
- A withdrawal of operations to Tokyo Narita with the final flight from London to Narita on 31 January 2015 and the final flight from Narita to London on 01 February 2015
- A withdrawal of operations to Mumbai with the final flight from London to Mumbai on 31 January 2015 and the final flight from Mumbai to London on 01 February 2015
- The summer seasonal service from London Heathrow to Vancouver will not return after this season’s flying program is completed on 11 October 2014
- The winter seasonal service to Cape Town will operate as planned in winter 2014/15 but will not be renewed the following winter. The final flight from London to Cape Town will be on 26 April 2015 and the final flight from Cape Town to London on 27 April 2015.
So, BOM/NRT/YVR/CPT are out and we will see more Virgin Atlantic flights in the USA.
I cannot speak to the economics of the move – whether Virgin is seeing, like Qantas has now admitted, that the US routes are its bread and butter and it was losing money on other routes, or whether it just made more sense to catch all that feeder U.S. traffic from Delta – but I can speak to the award travel implications.
Delta’s Virgin partnerships – with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia – have greatly increased the value proposition of the Skymiles program. Both carriers are generous with award space (at least much more generous than Delta’s own metal) and there are no fuel surcharges collected on either carrier (sort of…for Virgin Atlantic, to avoid the fuel surcharge your trip must begin in North America). Delta used to block premium “Upper Class” space on Virgin Atlantic but I don’t see any blocking on USA routes anymore.
Thus, with more routes opening comes more chances to use your Delta or American Express miles to get to Europe for 60K in economy class or 125K in business class. We don’t know what exactly the partner chart will look like once Delta’s new Skymiles program comes into effect next January, but you at least have four months to take advantage of the old chart.
Once these new routes are published, look for award space on the new JFK/ATL/LAX/SFO/DTW/MIA routes – it may be generous and you may be able to get your winter or summer 2015 trip booked now!