United Airlines and Virgin Australia Group have formed a new partnership that will give customers access to more one-stop connections to cities across the US, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. The deal also gives MileagePlus and Velocity Frequent Flyer members more benefits.
In addition to United’s daily direct flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney, the agreement gives the airline’s customers access to Australian destinations including Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. According to United, other routes including flights from Houston and direct services to Melbourne are expected to resume later in 2022.
The partnership will also triple Virgin Australia’s reach into the US, with customers accessing United’s domestic and international network.
The agreement boosts benefits for MileagePlus and Velocity Frequent Flyer members, who can redeem and earn points/miles. Eligible premier MileagePlus and Velocity members will also receive the following benefits when flying on United and Virgin Australia worldwide:
- Priority check-in
- Priority boarding
- Priority baggage delivery and additional baggage check allowance
- Priority security clearance
- Lounge access
The agreement is set to roll out starting in early 2022, subject to government approval.
The partnership is significant move for the relaunched Virgin Australia. Under the pressure of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the airline went into voluntary administration – Australia’s nearest equivalent to US Chapter 11 – in April 2020.
After it was sold to private equity firm Bain Capital, the carrier emerged from bankruptcy protection in November 2020 as a mid-market ‘hybrid,’ somewhere between a full-service airline and low cost carrier.
Virgin Australia had halted the sale of codeshare flights on its website at the height of the pandemic. Starting with the United agreement, Virgin Australia is set resume the sale of codeshare flights at virginaustralia.com in early 2022, with the airline’s other international partners to follow.
“We are grateful to have such a strong partner in United,” said Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka. “They have proudly been one of Australia’s most loyal and long serving aviation partners and their market strength both to Australia and in the United States brings great value to our guests.”
United says it was the only carrier to continue its passenger service between the US and Australia despite COVID-19 travel restrictions. “I’m especially proud that United was the only airline to maintain a vital link between these two countries throughout the pandemic,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Looking ahead, Virgin Australia is the perfect partner for United.”