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UPDATED 7 July 2016 – Portland – Heathrow schedule added.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic may not be part of the same worldwide alliance but they’ve been very strongly connected ever since Delta took a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic back in 2013. It wasn’t long after the tie-up with Delta that Virgin Atlantic started to withdraw from a lot of its non US/Caribbean routes to focus on the leisure sector between the US and the US.
As a counter measure to giving up destinations like Tokyo, Cape Town and Vancouver, Virgin Atlantic used its partnership with Delta to open up new routes to Atlanta and Detroit as well as adding more flights to existing destinations like LA, New York and San Francisco…and the Delta Virgin relationship has been evolving ever since.
Yesterday I noted that Virgin Atlantic had quietly added a new route to its network (London to Seattle) in the latest set of schedule changes and suggested that this could be a replacement for Delta’s current London – Seattle flight. Today, not only have Delta and Virgin Atlantic have confirmed that this is what’s happening, but they’ve also gone ahead and announced a further series of route swaps as well as a new seasonal route between the US and UK all of which will come into effect from 2017.
Delta & Virgin Atlantic Route Swaps
Detroit – London
From 26 March 2017 Delta will add a second flight between Detroit and London Heathrow which will act as a replacement for the current daily service offered by Virgin Atlantic.
Neither airline’s website has been updated for this route swap (despite the fact they’ve issued a press release) so Delta.com is still showing Virgin Atlantic as operating one of the flights past the date Delta is supposed to take over.
There’s no mention in the press release if the timings of the new Delta flights will be the same as the current Virgin Atlantic flights but I’ll keep this page updated as more information comes in.
This is a route swap that I understand…mainly because I didn’t understand why Virgin would fly this route in the first place. However they may like to portray themselves, Virgin Atlantic is still seen as a leisure airline over in the UK and I just don’t see London-Detroit as a leisure market. The majority of people flying this route will almost certainly be Delta flyers and, presumably, they would prefer to fly on Delta aircraft where their status is recognised and they can apply for upgrades. This swap will be good news for that demographic.
Atlanta – London
From 27 May 2017 Delta will add a third daily service between Atlanta and London Heathrow at the expense of one of the two daily flights currently being flown by Virgin Atlantic.
The viewable airline schedules don’t go out as far as the end of May so it’s not possible to see which of the flights Delta will be taking over (and the airlines decided to omit this information from the press release) but this is what the Virgin Atlantic summer schedule looks like right now:
VS104 ATL 17:45 – 07:05+ 1 day LHR (Daily Airbus A340 service)
VS116 ATL 20:40 – 10:00+ 1 day LHR (Daily Airbus A330 service)
VS103 LHR 09:25 – 13:55 ATL (Daily Airbus A340 service)
VS115 LHR 11:35 – 16:05 ATL (Daily Airbus A330 service)
This was another of Virgin Atlantic’s routes that I don’t fully understand for very similar reasons to the ones I gave for the Detroit route. Atlanta is Delta’s fortress hub and home so one has to assume that the vast majority of passengers out of there are going to be Delta Medallion members…so they’re going to want to fly on flights where their status gets them the benefits they’re entitled to…so why would they choose to fly on Virgin?
New York JFK – Manchester UK
From 25 May 2017 Delta will cede this route to Virgin Atlantic for the 2017 summer season. Delta will take the route back for winter 2017.
Once again, despite making the route swap public, the airlines haven’t yet updated their websites so a search on Delta.com will still offer you flights on Delta for this route. Nevertheless, here’s what the schedule looks like with Delta operating the route….Virgin’s schedule is unlikely to be too different.
DL421 JFK 22:41 – 10:45+ 1 day MAN (Daily)
DL221 MAN 12:45 – 15:30 JFK (Daily)
Virgin Atlantic have confirmed that they will be utilising an Airbus A330-300 on this route.
Now this is a route I can understand Virgin Atlantic operating. Flying out of Manchester the airline can capture both business and leisure traffic from the whole of the UK’s North West and I can imagine that summer demand for a New York flight is pretty high for leisure travelers. I doubt that this route is particularly elite heavy so I can’t see too many people being inconvenienced by this swap.
Seattle – London
Delta’s New Route: Portland – London Heathrow
Delta has announced a new seasonal service between Portland, Oregon and London Heathrow which will begin 26 May 2017.
As of 7 July the airline has released the schedule for its new route:
DL036 PDX 17:00 – 10:50+ 1 day LHR (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat)
DL037 LHR 12:30 – 15:15 PDX (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat)
The route will be operated 4x/week with a Boeing 767.
To me, a lot of these swaps make sense and reverse previous decisions that I didn’t understand. Having Delta operate flights on routes that are going to be heavy with Delta flyers makes sense because those flyers will want to pick flights on which they can maximise their hard earned status.
The Virgin Atlantic Seattle – London route will be an interesting one to watch because, on the one hand Seattle is strong Delta territory so you’d assume that it would be preferable to have Delta flying the route but, on the other hand, I can see Seattle being a popular tourist destination for British vacationers and that makes is a good route for Virgin to try out. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.