Virgin Australia partners with Singapore Airlines yet still “big alliance” shy

In the words of Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, yesterday’s announced alliance between the carrier and Singapore Airlines will “unequivocally” be bad news for Qantas. Speaking mainly in terms of the scope and connectivity to the rest of the world Singapore will bring to Virgin’s passengers wishing a seamless travel experience starting within Australia, he thinks this partnership will be a major blow to Qantas’ struggling international business.

Keep in mind this is a one-off codesharing agreement between Virgin Australia & Singapore, much like the ones they already have in place with AirNew Zealand, Etihad and soon to be Delta Air Lines pending U.S. government approval. Mr. Borghetti made it clear yesterday that this in no way should be viewed as a step to join a “big alliance” (Star Alliance in this case) by saying “the relationship between Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines shouldn’t be confused with anything else other than that.” He did continue to say, however, that joining a major alliance isn’t out of the question by adding “…that is something we’ll think about in 2012 and beyond.”

Globally, the Virgin brand has been a bit unique in shying away from joining one of the three major airline alliances: OneWorld, SkyTeam & Star Alliance. Perhaps in part due to the strength of their existing partnerships, as well as strong domestic offerings within Australia, and of course in the United States with sister company Virgin America continuing to grow. Their match up with Delta continues to intrigue me, though, as Borghetti was in attendance at a Star Alliance meeting back in December and I had selfishly hoped they’d be dumping Delta and switching focus to Star Alliance carriers within the U.S. He didn’t close the door on that possibility, so I’m hoping to one day arrive in Sydney on United Virgin Australia and have their domestic network at my disposal.

The agreement between Virgin Australia & Singapore will provide meaningful benefits for travelers with coordinated flight schedules, frequent flyer program earning & redemption opportunities and reciprocal lounge access. It is scheduled to commence August 1st this year and has been termed a “long-term” partnership.

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