The frequent flyer partnership between United Airlines‘ Continental subsidiary and Virgin Atlantic is being terminated as of February 13, 2012. This date is the last for mileage earning or redemption ticket issuance on the partner, with award redemptions valid for one year from that date, assuming they are issued. This isn’t a particularly surprising move, though it is a bit of a downgrade in terms of the MileagePlus program.
The Continental/Virgin relationship made a lot of sense when it was originally launched. Continental had a minimal amount of traffic into London at all and none into Heathrow due to the Bermuda II restrictions. It allowed Continental to market flights into Heathrow under their own code and to sell onward connections using Heathrow as a transit point. Since the establishment of the Open Skies agreement between the US and the EU, however, Continental has had access to Heathrow and has steadily increased flights there. Add in the merger with United and there are only a few cities now where Virgin had nonstop service ex-LHR that the combined United doesn’t and those are less significant today.
The end of the partnership is rather unfortunate on the redemption side of the frequent flyer program in particular as Virgin has often had decent award availability, especially in their Upper Class business class product and especially close to the travel date. I’ve taken advantage of that a couple times and, though I’m not a huge fan of the product, it is still an option being lost which is unfortunate.
Also unfortunate is the timing of the announcement. The company provided barely 4 weeks’ notice of the change, one that they have likely known about for some time. It is a shame that the changes to partners and earning rates are trickling out so slowly as part of the merger process.
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.