Virgin Australia has announced it will switch its American codeshare partner from Delta to United.
The airline said the new arrangement, which will begin in April 2022, will triple its reach and unlock loyalty benefits for Velocity Frequent Flyer members.
United was the only American airline flying commercially between the two countries during the height of the pandemic, and still today offers more flights than any other US carrier.
Virgin had been working with rival Delta for more than a decade and said it will work with the business to transition its Velocity partnership, while existing booking will be honoured.
Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said, “Virgin Australia customers will have significantly more options for travel from Australia to the States, with more than three-times as many services available to them, which is great news for Australian travellers.”
United currently offers daily direct flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney, with flights from Houston and direct services to Melbourne expected to resume later in 2022.
Qantas is in a similar codeshare arrangement with United States’ biggest airline, American, as part of the Oneworld Alliance.
It comes after Virgin last week announced it would partner with Link Airways to resume its service between Sydney and Canberra, which it paused at the start of the pandemic.
From 30 January 2022, Virgin will operate more than 50 services a week between the two cities under an exclusive agreement with Link, which will use its 34-seat Saab 340 B Plus aircraft.
Customers on the short flights, which will run up to nine times on weekdays, will receive complimentary tea, coffee and water.
Hrdlicka said the service will provide more than 16,000 seats each month and eligible customers will have access to Virgin’s Canberra lounge.
Qantas held an effective monopoly on flights between the two cities until Rex launched its own service earlier this year, accusing Qantas of “fare gouging” and overcharging customers.
Rex said it would initially fly seven return flights a day between Canberra and Sydney from 19 April, but could increase that to 10.
It has begun reinstating domestic services, including using its 737s since mid-November, and is currently operating 15 flights per week between the two cities.
Qantas currently flies a mixture of larger 717s and smaller Dash 8s on the route.