Via Lucky, Continental and Virgin Atlantic will no longer be frequent flyer partners after February 13.
There’ll be no reciprocal mileage accrual after that date, and no redemptions either. Any awards on Virgin using Continental miles must be ticketed by February 13 (and vice versa). Any changes to awards after that date will require switching carriers, you won’t be able to book an award with Continental miles now to fly Virgin and change the date later, since Continental will no longer have access to Virgin reward inventory after that date.
This is completely and utterly expected. United wasn’t a Virgin partner. Virgin isn’t a Star Alliance member. It was a holdover of an old relationship. And the two airlines have shed other non-alliance partners like Etihad over the past year.
The value to Virgin from the relationship was clear, they got a US partner to feed traffic to its long-haul flights. Sure, Continental got the same from Virgin, long haul passengers mostly from London who would transfer to its US domestic flights. But Continental has its own London flights, so does United, and Virgin doesn’t have much of a regional feeder network. Now Virgin is without a US partner, much as Emirates is after both United and Continental dropped that relationship. (I actually expected Emirates to have picked up a new US partner by now, and spotted an Emirates Skywards exec meeting with a counterpart from American AAdvantage about 9 months ago, but American subsequently announced a partnership with U.A.E. carrier Etihad instead — which then took a stake in soon-to-be oneworld member AIr Berlin.)
The nice thing about the Continental – Virgin relationship is that Continental actually allowed combining Virgin with other partners in an award ticket. So you could fly from the US to London on Virgin and connect to Thai, for instance to Bangkok or to South African Airways to Johannesburg. Virgin has an excellent business class, and Continental redemptions didn’t incur fuel surcharges. Virgin availability out of many US gateways tended to be quite good. So this partnership will be sorely missed.
American is in a joint venture with British Airways, so they’re out as a US partner. Virgin has often been rumored as a possible member of the Star Alliance, but the severing of this relationship would seem to suggest that such a move isn’t close. So among major US airlines that leaves Delta, which already closely partners with Air France but is perhaps Virgin’s best bet for its US dance card. Which would make Delta miles a whole lot more valuable as well, though I’d be willing to bet that Virgin Atlantic awards would be assessed fuel surcharges on Skymiles redemptions.
Very sad to see this one go!