Virgin Australia’s new codeshare partnership with United Airlines is now in full swing, following a formal launch event in Sydney on Tuesday.
The event took place at Sydney Kingsford Smith’s international terminal, timed to celebrate the first United flight to operate under the codeshare partnership, flight UA870 from Sydney to San Francisco.
It comes after Virgin in December announced that it would switch its American codeshare partner from Delta Air Lines to United, after more than a decade of partnership with Delta.
The event, jointly hosted by Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and United’s managing director of international sales Marcel Fuchs, involved American cheerleaders, Aussie surfers, as well as donut and pretzel stands.
Cabin crew from both airlines were present to cut a ceremonial ribbon, marking the official beginning of the partnership between the two carriers.
It comes just days ahead of United’s planned expansion of services into Australia from 2 June, which will also see the return of the popular Melbourne-San Francisco route.
The Virgin and United partnership was originally slated to be up and running by April, unlocking loyalty benefits for both Velocity Frequent Flyers and MileagePlus members.
Virgin said its deal with United, the only American airline to continue flying commercially between Australia and the US throughout the height of the pandemic, will triple its reach into the Americas.
Meanwhile, its existing deal with Delta is due to formally end on 12 June. Virgin has promised that existing bookings will be honoured.
It also comes just two weeks after Virgin revealed a new codeshare partnership with Qatar Airways, to offer frequent flyers with flight redemptions, points perks and lounge access across both airlines.
This partnership, expected to be in full swing later this year, will also give customers access to both Virgin Australia’s domestic and short-haul network, as well as Qatar’s global destinations.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise given Virgin’s ongoing partnership with Qatar rival Etihad for global travel via the Middle East, as well as Qatar’s membership of the Oneworld Alliance, of which Virgin rival Qantas is also a member.
However, once in operation, frequent flyers of both Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Velocity Frequent Flyer will enjoy reciprocal loyalty benefits, by accruing points, and, depending on status tier, free lounge access, complimentary extra baggage allowance, priority check-in, and priority boarding when flying either airline.