Delta and Virgin Australia suspend transpacific partnership as latter restructures

Sep 9, 2020

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Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia are suspending their partnership on flights that span the Pacific Ocean as the Australian carrier slims down under new ownership.

The move will see the carriers temporarily halt coordinating schedules, fares and other activities between Australia and the U.S. under their transpacific joint venture, Delta told staff in an internal memo on 4 September that was viewed by TPG. Delta and Virgin Australia plan to resume their pact in the future.

Delta flyers can continue to earn and redeem miles on Virgin Australia, as well as receive elite benefits on the airline, Delta said.

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The suspension follows court approval of a restructuring plan for Virgin Australia. The Brisbane-based carrier is shedding its wide-body Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 jets, and suspending all long-haul international flights until “sufficient demand returns” under the plan.

“Once demand recovers and Virgin Australia resumes long-haul international flights, we anticipate restarting our joint venture relationship”, Delta told staff.

Delta is flying thrice-weekly between Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD) with plans to resume daily flights in 2021. The flights are on 777-200 aircraft but will shift to Airbus A350-900s in November as the airline retires its fleet of 777s.

Related: Restructuring Virgin Australia to shed wide-body jets, shrink to an all-Boeing 737 airline

While Delta continues to fly to Sydney, Australia remains off-limits to foreigners except those with emergency exemptions. All arriving citizens and non-citizens are subject to a 14-day quarantine.

Virgin Australia was one of the first casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. The airline entered voluntary administration — the Australian equivalent of bankruptcy restructuring — in April, with a court giving final approval to winning bidder Bain Capital’s takeover of the airline on 4 September.

Under Bain’s plan, a slimmed down Virgin Australia will fly around 75 737-800s on domestic and short-haul international routes. However, it will lay off around a third of its workforce — roughly 3,000 people — as a result.

Delta and Virgin Australia have coordinated flights across the Pacific since 2011.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Featured image by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.

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