Virgin Atlantic to end Dubai to London Heathrow flights

Virgin Atlantic A330

Virgin Atlantic has  announced that it will withdraw flights between Dubai and London Heathrow from March 31, 2019.

After reviewing its network, the airline has decided the route is no longer economically viable.

Shai Weiss, chief commercial officer for Virgin Atlantic, said: “It‘s never an easy decision to withdraw a route, and we’d like to thank our customers and dedicated team in Dubai for their loyalty over the last 12 years.”

Customers will still be able to book flights uUntil March 31st 2019, Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate its daily flights between Dubai and London Heathrow as planned, with new bookings still available until the last flight.


Jet Airways links with Virgin Atlantic for India-US service

Jet Airways

Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic expand codeshare partnership

Now includes onward travel destinations from London Heathrow to nine destinations in north America and the Indian sub-continent.

Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced their existing codeshare agreement has been expanded. From April 19, 2017, Jet Airways passengers travelling between India and the US can connect through London Heathrow on to nine U.S. destinations operated by Virgin Atlantic; Atlanta, Boston, Newark, Washington (IAD), New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle*.

The existing codeshare agreement started in 2009 and saw Virgin Atlantic passengers able to travel on Jet Airways operated services between Mumbai and London Heathrow in addition to the airline’s own direct Delhi to London service. In 2015 this was extended on to Jet Airways domestic services so Virgin Atlantic passengers could fly from London Heathrow to five destinations across India via Delhi or Mumbai.

The new arrangement builds on the more extensive code share announced between Jet Airways and Delta in October of last year. That codeshare allows Jet Airways passengers to connect on to Delta operated services via London Heathrow to eighteen cities across the US, including Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, New York-JFK, Minneapolis, Portland, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Austin, Charlotte, Columbus, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, St. Louis and Tampa. In return, Delta passengers flying between North America and India can connect onto flights operated by Jet Airways to 20 destinations within India.  The Delta codeshare destinations include Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Cochin, Coimbatore, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Pune, Trivandrum and Vadodara. Likewise guests

“Delta’s codeshare with Jet Airways has seen positive growth in passenger numbers since we launched the agreement six months ago, reflecting the strong demand for air links between the United States and India,” said Nat Pieper, Delta’s senior vice president Europe, Middle East, Africa & India. “The introduction of this new codeshare, increases travel options even more and further supports the Delta-Virgin Atlantic relationship.”

Gaurang Shetty, Whole-time Director, Jet Airways, said, “Offering greater choice and connectivity to our guests has always been a hallmark of our network strategy. The new codeshares build on the success of our ongoing cooperation with Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic over London Heathrow and will provide our guests with more connectivity to and within the United States. Further, our loyalty program partnership will also enable the frequent flyers of both carriers to accrue and redeem their miles across each other’s entire network.”

Shai Weiss, Chief Commercial Officer for Virgin Atlantic, said: “We’re really pleased to extend our agreement with Jet Airways to offer customers even more choice when travelling between India and the US, via London Heathrow. From this week customers of both airlines can travel from five destinations across India with Jet Airways, and connect via London Heathrow to nine US destinations with Virgin Atlantic including Boston and Los Angeles, as well as many more US destinations with transatlantic partner Delta Airlines via key hubs such as New York and Atlanta. This innovative codeshare allows customers to tailor their journey using a combination of flights from Jet Airways, Virgin Atlantic and their transatlantic partner Delta Air Lines – whilst continuing to benefit from a single check in and bag drop.”

* Codeshare on Seattle opens for travel effective 1st May 2017.


Virgin Atlantic closes Clubhouse lounge in Hong Kong

Plaza Premium Lounge West Hall HKIA The Galleria

Virgin Atlantic closed its Hong Kong Clubhouse lounge on February 5.

Despite the lounge undergoing a major revamp in July 2015, with just one flight per day it appears the facility became unsustainable to maintain, particularly with the competitive lounge offerings at Hong Kong International Airport.

Eligible Virgin customers (which includes Flying Club Gold members and Upper Class passengers) will instead be afforded complimentary access to the nearby Plaza Premium Lounge in Hong Kong located at West Hall, Level 7, Departure level, Terminal 1.

In a statement to Business Traveller Asia Pacific, the airline said: “It’s a difficult decision to close the Clubhouse, and we’re working closely with Plaza Premium to continue to provide a dedicated space within the lounge, where Virgin Atlantic customers can relax before their flight and enjoy a range of hot and cold meals, drinks and wifi.

“This decision has no impact on the Hong Kong route which has been a popular part of our network for over 20 years. We continue to offer a daily Hong Kong service to London Heathrow, using one of our brand new 787s.”

Virgin Atlantic adds Oscar films to in-flight entertainment

Virgin Atlantic Inflight entertainment

Travellers flying with Virgin Atlantic will be able to watch many of the 2017 Academy Awards-nominated films this spring, with the airline set to screen all films nominated in the Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

Virgin Atlantic will be showing the films between February and May, including La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight. Passengers flying on the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner direct flights between Hong Kong and London Heathrow will also be able to keep up to date with live news that Virgin Atlantic will stream on the event.

“Flying is one of the few occasions where you can turn off your phone, sit back and enjoy dinner and a movie without interruption,” said Mark Anderson, executive vice president, customer at Virgin Atlantic. “This spring our inflight entertainment will be extra special as we showcase all the major nominated movies for customers to enjoy as they jet to Tinsel Town, Bollywood or beyond.”

The 2017 Academy Awards will be taking place on February 26 at 5:30pm PST.

Virgin Atlantic marks 20 years of South African flying

Virgin Atlantic JoBurg

Virgin Atlantic marks 20 years of South African flying

Over 2.5 million passengers have flown with Virgin Atlantic on the route since the launch in 1996

Virgin Atlantic has marked 20 years of flying to South Africa with an onboard party on its flight from Johannesburg to London attended by Sit Richard Branson. The carrier began flying to and from South Africa in October 1996 with an Airbus A340, and now operates a daily flight to London Heathrow on a state of the art B787-900.

The airline says that since 1996 Virgin Atlantic has served over 6.3 million glasses of bubbly to over 2.5 million passengers and has operated over 14,400 flights spanning 191,063,520 kms.

In true Virgin style, the airline’s founder arrived with much fun and fanfare to ‘Birthday Girl’ – the first 787 Dreamliner introduced to the Virgin Atlantic network – in a union jack branded MINI, waving at surprised passengers as they boarded the flight to London. Once on-board, Richard Branson served drinks to all customers and then led the entire plane with some traditional birthday party games from ‘pass-the-parcel’ to lucky draws, all at 38,000ft.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, said: “Twenty years ago we took a leap of faith by operating our first flight into Africa – we didn’t know if people would choose to fly with us but we believed that offering competitive fares between Johannesburg and London was essential. South Africa welcomed us with open arms, and the route quickly became one of the most popular on our network.

Virgin Atlantic has a network of over 30 destinations and recently announced a $4.4 billion order for 12 A350-1000 aircraft. It is part of the airline’s commitment to a fleet modernisation program which will see 50 percent of Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft replaced in a six year period.


Interview: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Oli Byers Virgin Atlantic

Oli Byers is Virgin Atlantic’s Senior Vice President of Revenue Management and Customer Loyalty.

Oli Byers is Virgin Atlantic’s Senior Vice President of Revenue Management and Customer Loyalty. Business Traveller spoke to him about the changes to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club Programme. The details of those changes are here


So is this a partial move towards a revenue-based programme?

“The short answer is yes. We haven’t gone all the way to launching a revenue-based programme, but we do want to reflect that loyalty should be more aligned to spend rather than the number of sectors that someone flies. So yes, we’ve deliberately made changes to reflect the revenue value of the ticket.”

Why did you decide to change?

“If you look at the difference between the cheapest fare and the most expensive fare we offer, and then look at the equivalent number of miles you could earn on those tickets, the difference between the two, the ratio, used to be three to one and it is now more like eight to one. So the changes have made the programme more rewarding for those who are spending more on their tickets.

The main driver for the changes has come not from wanting to become a more revenue-aligned programme, it was for getting a programme that works better for long haul flyers. We looked at it and felt it didn’t do enough for those who fly solely long haul, so this is what we have executed.

Do miles still expire after three years?

We still have a system where the miles expire after three years, but that’s only if you have had no activity with us including credit card spend. Historically if you were a silver member and you reverted back to red you got a new number. Now there is one number assigned to each member no matter what tier the member is.

Why are you increasing the tier points by 25 times?

For existing tier points we are increasing them by 25 is to make them consistent with the new tier points. The new tier point values and thresholds are so that in the future we have the option of introducing the ability for people to be able to earn tier points in other ways. The historic rates were two points in economy and up to six points in upper class, and that didn’t give us the flexibility to allow you to earn tier points in other ways. So today we are not announcing new ways of earning tier points, but we want to have that option. Currently if you are a U.S based customers you can get tier points on the credit card or flying with Delta on one of our tickets you can earn through Flying Club on that. It was quite a low valued currency for tier points. Having a larger currency from 25 points up to 200 in Upper Class will help us.

How many members are there in the Flying Club?

There are 2.3 million members – mostly in the UK, though we have quite a sizeable presence in the U.S as well.

Is this so the programme works better with Delta?

Not particularly. We work an awful lot with Delta across the Atlantic in the joint venture but Delta’s Skymiles is an independent programme. These changes are meant to service our customer base which is long haul flyers rather than Delta’s customer base in the U.S. [many of which are short haul.]

Is the aim of these changes to increase the size of the programme and the number of members?

Yes. We have a goal to make Flying Club more successful. So for a customer travelling once one long haul on leisure every year or travelling with us all the time on business we want the Club to be something they all want to join and see a value in.

But you are trying to stop people game the system?

Yes, and we think that some of the ways that people used to have to do that been reduced by making the value for mile in the programme more consistent in the ways you can redeem. That said, the core is designing a programme for the vast majority, not to stop people gaming it and I’m sure there will be some who continue to try. We also wanted to stop our members feeling they have to save all the time before they can get something that is good value. We have reduced economy flights from 35,000 to 20,000 which is one of the lowest on transatlantic, so we are trying to give people a good deal.

But you still have the taxes to pay?

On redemptions, yes, but on Miles and Money we wanted to come up with a much more flexible and valuable product. So now you can pay for the whole flight including the taxes and surcharges if you’ve got the miles. We know if you look at redemption fares we still require customers to pay for the surcharges but they can use the miles against the total far. Before we just offered you a fixed price discounting in the cabin.

Do you have a guaranteed number of redemption seats on all flights?

No, we don’t have a set amount. We actually saw the changes BA made [with a guaranteed number of business class seats on flights]. We don’t think the changes work because you end up in situations where you guarantee the seats because those who know how to play have got all those seats. If you look at the number of rewards eats on each of our planes, I think we have got a lot of availability – it’s based on where our customers want to fly and we try and create enough availability for them on those flights. It will always vary on flight by flight and depending on season.


Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways announce new codeshare agreement

Delta Virgin Jet Tails

Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways have announced a new codeshare agreement covering services between North America and India via London Heathrow.

From November 2 Jet Airways customers travelling between India and North America will be able to connect at Heathrow onto nine US destinations operated by Delta, namely Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

At the same time Delta customers will be able to connect onto Jet Airways services to Mumbai and Delhi via Heathrow, and onto 20 Indian destinations including Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Cochin, Coimbatore, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Pune, Trivandrum and Vadodara.

The new agreement adds to the existing Delta and Jet Airways codeshares via Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris CDG.

Then in 2017 (subject to government approvals) Delta’s transatlantic joint venture partner Virgin will expand its existing codeshare agreement with Jet Airways, with the Indian carrier placing its code on Virgin flights from Heathrow to ten North American cities including Miami, Newark, San Francisco and Washington.

Virgin already codeshares on Jet Airways routes to five Indian cities from Heathrow via Delhi.

Codeshare services will be available at, and, and Delta and Jet Airways frequent flyer programme members will “soon be able to enjoy network-wide, reciprocal mileage earning and redemption privileges”.

The new agreements follow the recent announcement that Skyteam members Air France, KLM and Delta plan to form a joint venture covering multiple routes to and from their hubs at Amsterdam and Paris CDG in Europe along with Atlanta, Minneapolis and New York JFK in the USA.

Virgin Atlantic launches global reward seat sale

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Premium Economy in-flight meal

Virgin Atlantic is offering a 30 per cent discount on redemption flights for economy and premium economy class.

The promotion, which runs until September 22, is unique as it is valid for travel until mid August 2017. In addition, upgrades vouchers that certain Virgin Atlantic co-branded credit cards award can be applied to the offer.

Redemption bookings, after the 30 per cent discount, start at 24,500 miles for a roundtrip economy service between the London-Heathrow and Boston. Meanwhile, a roundtrip economy flight between London-Heathrow and Hong Kong costs 35,000 miles.

Premium economy redemption fares start at 38,500 miles (London–Boston), with the most expensive route being London–Johannesburg, which costs 52,500 miles. For a complete breakdown of the miles required for each eligible route, click here.

Customers interested in taking up the offer should note that taxes, fees and carrier-imposed surcharges are still applicable. These range from £205 (London Gatwick–Havana in economy) to £427 (London Heathrow–Hong Kong in premium economy).

For more information, visit

Clement Huang

Delta to close Heathrow T3 Arrivals lounge

Delta Arrivals Lounge Heathrow T3

Delta is to close its Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 later this month, as part of the carrier’s consolidation with transatlantic joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic at the airport.

From September 14 the US carrier will move its current T4 services to Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia over to T3, meaning that all of its Heathrow services will operate from T3.

Then on September 20 Delta will close its dedicated Arrivals Lounge within T3, with eligible customers directed to use the Virgin Atlantic Revivals lounge at the terminal from September 21.

Delta’s Arrivals Lounge only opened in December 2014Business Traveller reviewed the space here.

According to the carrier, Delta One (business class) passengers – as well as Virgin Atlantic gold card holders and Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallions members travelling in economy with Delta – will have access to the Revivals lounge.

Departing Delta One customers also have access to Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse at T3.

Until Delta moves its remaining flights from T4, eligible departing customers have access to the Skyteam lounge there, while those arriving into the terminal can use services at the Yotel within the arrivals area.

Business Traveller has asked whether the Revivals lounge will be adapted or expanded to accommodate the increased number of passengers using the facilities, and will post any response here.,