On Tuesday I wrote that Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic would be ending their partnership November 13. It will no longer be possible to earn Virgin America miles flying Virgin Atlantic and vice versa. And it will no longer be possible to redeem Virgin America miles for travel on Virgin Atlantic and vice versa.
This was done without much notice to members. It wasn’t listed on either airline’s website, and neither airline has as of yet emailed members. Virgin America agents were briefed and sharing the details with customers who asked, while Virgin Atlantic agents appeared to know nothing about it.
After I covered the change, Virgin Atlantic reached out with a statement:
We are introducing some exciting changes to our loyalty programme, Flying Club, to offer our members more value for their loyalty. Alongside these changes, we are also changing our membership numbers, offering members a single lifetime membership number so that they can keep it as they move between our Flying Club tiers. Most of our partners have been able to accommodate this change, however, it isn’t compatible with Virgin America’s current system. Unfortunately, this means that the reciprocal agreement with Virgin America will come to an end on 12th November. There will still be many opportunities for our customers to use their miles with many different partners. More information can be found: www.virginatlantic.com/discoverflyingclub.
We will be unable to accept any new reward bookings on Virgin America from 12 November 2016. Any reward bookings made and ticketed on Virgin America prior to this date will be honoured.
Members will be able to earn miles when travelling on Virgin America up to and including 12 November 2016. Members will have 6 months after this date to retrospectively claim for miles for travel up to and including 12 November 2016.
Crucially, Virgin Atlantic says the last day of the partnership is November 12, while Virgin America had told me it was November 13 when I asked.
It seemed like Alaska’s pending acquisition of Virgin America could have been an issue here. Alaska is a British Airways partner, and Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic. Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic’s own devalued program starts November 13.
If a new agreement needed to be negotiated (so that Virgin Atlantic customers wouldn’t overwhelmingly benefit by defecting to the Virgin America program) it might not have seemed worthwhile going through the exercise for a short time.
Virgin Atlantic, though, says the reason for the termination is because of changing IT requirements. And I get that IT is hard. However,
- Virgin Atlantic also partners with Air China and Hawaiian Airlines and isn’t severing those relationships.
- Meanwhile Virgin America manages to successfully partner with Hawaiian, Emirates, and Virgin Australia among others.
- What’s more, it’s not as though Virgin America is using an obscure data platform. Sure, they launched with Travelport’s disastrous airRES, but they moved to Sabre in 2011.
- Heck, United manages to partner with Air India.
Taking “IT constraints” and suggesting those are fixed strikes me as the worst reason ever to end a frequent flyer partnership.