Has Delta Discontinued Their Partnership With Virgin Australia?

For a few years now, Delta and Virgin Australia have had a partnership, allowing members of both airlines’ frequent flyer programs reciprocal mileage earning and redemption.

Australia is one of the toughest destinations in the world to get to on miles, and Virgin Australia releases more saver level business class award availability between the US and Australia than any other airline. So this is a huge partnership for SkyMiles members, and one which greatly increases the value of SkyMiles, in my opinion.

Virgin-Australia-Business-Class
Virgin Australia’s current 777-300ER business class

However, something screwy has been going on lately.

Despite Delta having recently advertised that they’ve added a bunch of new partners to the SkyMiles online search page (and Delta displaying Virgin Australia award space online since 2012, actually), Virgin Australia award space no longer shows on delta.com.

Not only that, but Virgin Australia award space isn’t bookable by phone with Delta at the moment either. I found plenty of flights with saver level award availability on Virgin Australia’s website, yet they’re not even bookable by phone with Delta.

Virgin-Australia-Awards

At first I assumed it was an IT glitch or an incompetent SkyMiles agent, though I called several times and got the same results. On FlyerTalk, some report being told by SkyMiles agents that the partnership with Virgin Australia has been discontinued.

For what it’s worth, Virgin Australia is still listed as a Group 1 Partner on Delta’s website.

SkyMiles-Virgin

While I’m not sure it’s necessarily related, Virgin Australia seat assignments don’t show on delta.com either anymore, even though they previously did.

DL-VA-Confirmation

Bottom line

It would be a real shame if the partnership between Delta and Virgin Australia were discontinued, given that this is one of the best options for getting to one of the toughest destinations in the world on miles. It’s especially a shame if this happens before Virgin Australia introduces their new business class product, which looks fantastic.

Virgin-Australia-New-Business-Class-1

I’ve reached out to Delta SkyMiles for clarification, and will report back when I hear something.

Have you had any luck redeeming Delta SkyMiles for travel on Virgin Australia recently?

Comments

  1. That doesn’t sound right — both the CEOs of VA and Delta were in Australia last week, jointly lobbying to have their joint venture continue beyond the end of next year. The venture is due to continue through next year regardless.

  2. This is devastating to me. Australia is basically the reason I collect points and miles. And with US Airways becoming AA, if VA is no longer a DL partner then it’ll take a near miracle to get to Australia from the US at a reasonable miles value.

    However, I guess I am mentally prepared for DL to become revenue-based anyway, so I expected that well to dry up quickly.

  3. That is especially odd since Delta and Virgin Australia recently filed a request to reauthorize their alliance

  4. This seems unlikely … they have a full joint venture, not just a simple FFP partnership, so it is not a flick of a light switch thing to end it.

  5. If that is true it certainly makes SQ’s program more attractive since they are still a Virgin Australia partner for earning and redemption.

  6. Well, joint venture doesn’t necessarily mean more award tickets though. It will make sense for Delta to stop releasing more award seats. There isn’t much competition on Australia – US routes. It is a market dominated by Qantas. Delta seems to be really interesting provide discounted business class revenue seat than award seat. Which makes perfect sense, how could you refuse the business ticket that is priced only at 80% of its full fare price.

  7. Honestly, Ben, this strikes me as a very amateurish and irresponsible headline, and a very naive question too.

    Virgin and Delta have a five-year JV which runs through to 2016. CEOs of both airlines are currently on the trail to have this renewed (for which they need approval of US and US agencies, hence why Delta CEO was in Australia last week) through to 2021, but regardless, the current partnership arrangement remains in place.

    Surely an influential blogger such as yourself should be a bit more responsible and take the necessary step of contacting an airline’s PR to ask _why_ there’s missing award space rather than post a very leading and clickbaity heading asking “Has Delta Discontinued Their Partnership With Virgin Australia?” (BTW – companies are singular so it should be “it’s partnership” not “their partnership”).

  8. Last Friday I was able to book 2 business seats WLG-BNE-LAX for Feb 2016 at 80K each. It took 3 calls to Delta after delta website pulled it from their site a week ago. I called Virgin Australia to reserve seats and asked if they had heard anything about the delta partner ship but they did not know.

  9. Ben I agree with David, it is extremely unlikely this story is true.
    While VA also partner with VX, VA have always trumpeted their extremely strong JV relationship with DL as their premier North American partner (partly because they have a much stronger network than VX do). VA will not be able to compete with QF to the US without a very strong local carrier partner.

  10. @David

    Ben has already said he’s contacted Delta.

    As a reminder, this was the airline that took down its award chart, thereby taking away any semblance of transparency in award pricing.

    Surreptitiously eliminating a popular award offering with no notice should hardly surprise.

  11. @ David — We take a different approach towards sharing stories, and I can appreciate that:
    — I had a question mark in my headline
    — Delta SkyMiles has time and again shown that they’re the least transparent frequent flyer program out there
    — I reached out to a Delta PR rep
    — I received literally a dozen emails/comments about this over the past few hours, and I always like to address those situations as quickly as possible
    — Multiple people claim they were told by SkyMiles agents that the partnership was discontinued

    My approach to blogging is more “stream of consciousness” than others. I publish things as they go through my head. I realize you take more of a “traditional journalist” approach to blogging, though hopefully you can respect my approach as well.

  12. @ Adam — I suppose it’s also possible to have a partnership/alliance without actually have reciprocal award redemptions.

  13. @David – If you are going to be correcting language, I’m sure you mean, “its partnership,” not “it’s partnership.” Its is possessive, it’s is “it is.”

  14. Sadly, I can believe this. Delta has proven that it doesn’t play well with others. This was the last of the really valuable uses for Skymiles.

  15. Well this post made me freak. I went to DL website to check my award booking from December (which still allowed stopovers). My seats were all “gone” per DL.com. Furiously went to VA.com and checked my reservation. Whew, the seats I reserved are still part of my itin. Some communication issue btwn AL and VA. DL please play nice.

  16. Ben: yep, I ~do~ get that you have a different approach and a different set of metrics by which you judge, write and publish stories. I also appreciate the background you’ve shared which led up to this. I’d have likely held fire until I had the full story, although that’s maybe a ‘journalist vs blogger’ thing. I do however suggest that calling the whole partnership into question over missing award seats was too much of a stretch.

  17. Ben, if this ends up being true could it have any impact on tickets already booked through Delta on VA? I have a trip scheduled for august to sydney and new zealand…

  18. I’ve been checking availability almost every day and saw many available…until late last week. I was only checking a 1-2 week period but thought it was odd that they all just disappeared. Hoping it’s not true.

  19. @David: I think Lucky is quite right to point this out. Delta has, literally within the last month, made huge changes to their award redemption program even while their own PR team was denying it (e.g., the de facto restriction on low level award seats within 21 days on many routes). I don’t think it’s out of the question to ask what’s going on.

    The bigger problem is the pedantic grammar complaints. Beyond the “its” versus “it’s” already mentioned by another commenter, it is widely acknowledged that groups of people, including companies, can take either the singular or plural in standard English. It is very easy to find usage like Ben’s in whatever news source you please. From the New York Times, for example, referring to a group as “they” in the same sentence as they use a singular verb conjugation for that group: “Third Way, a Democratic group with ties to Mr. Clinton and his administration, is devoted to pushing a centrist agenda. Mr. Daley is a member of their board of directors.” http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/at-obama-white-house-back-to-the-future/

  20. From my end as a VA member, I can’t see award space on DL either! So it’s possible the 2 CEO’s had a fight?

    After all, the marriage between VA and DL has always been an odd one. VA is owned by NZ, SQ and EY, so it should be closer to Star Alliance, and therefore UA. (EY is partnered with AA, but AA being OW and already partnered with QF so there is no way VA will partner with AA.) I guess VA initially partnered with DL so it won’t get too close to star alliance. But if there is a conflict of interest, I wouldn’t be surprised that VA divorces DL and marries UA.

  21. I’m a VA Platinum, and I usually fly DL around the US at least 8-10x per year when I’m over there. DL and VA seem to have made the recognition seamless now – I didn’t even need to show my card to get in the lounge as my status was automatically in DLs system, Sky Priority was printed on the passes etc. This is all new, and the IT back-end to do it is pretty intensive. I can’t imagine DL having done it if they were dumping DL as a partner. I suspect it could even have something to do with VA’s IT systems, which are undergoing a much needed and long overdue *massive* overhaul at the moment. Perhaps because of this VA data sharing for DL awards is temporarily on the fritz?

    That being said, if a VA/DL split was the price of VA joining join Star Alliance I would support it in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even groan that it meant I had to use UA (well… not that much anyway). Sorry DL fans.

  22. I booked LAX TO MELBOURNE via Sydney and return several months ago for a flight on Virgin Australia using Delta miles (160,0000) on the Delta website. The flight is in mid October. Will this affect my flight?

  23. @ Bill Meier — Nope, for ticketed reservations you’ll never have issues, even if a partnership were discontinued (which doesn’t even seem to be the case here).

  24. Delta rep on FT posted this afternoon (3/26/15) “All thanks for your patience. The root cause of the error has been identified and will be corrected early Saturday morning. Apologies for the inconvenience and please try again Saturday.”

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