This week, Virgin America announced an interline agreement with Virgin Blue's V Australia, "offering seamless travel on the networks of each carrier across their United States and trans-Pacific routes."
In this case, that seamless travel has both operational and frequent flyer program aspects.
On the operational side, beginning June 8, travelers can combine flights from both airlines on a single ticket, and their checked bags will be automatically transferred between the connecting flights. If that seems like a yawner, it's because such relationships are the rule rather than the exception among the world's larger airlines.
Virgin America and V Australia serve only one common airport: Los Angeles. So the agreement applies to travelers flying Virgin America from Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Boston, or Washington, D.C., connecting in Los Angeles to V Australia's flights to Sydney or Brisbane.
More significant for Virgin America's customers is the frequent flyer dimension of the relationship. From the airline's press release:
As of June 8, 2009, guests will be eligible to earn Elevate frequent flier points for the Virgin America leg of their journey. By early next year, guests will be able to earn either Virgin America Elevate points or Velocity Points for their travel on Virgin America, V Australia or Virgin Blue flights. Eventually, guests will also be able to redeem their Elevate points or Velocity Points for flights on Virgin America, V Australia or Virgin Blue.
So, "eventually," members of Virgin America's Elevate program will be able to both earn and redeem points for flights on V Australia.
In my early review of the Elevate program, I pointed out that, aside from its nasty expiration policy, the program's chief weakness was its lack of earning and award partners. The new relationship with V Australia doesn't solve that problem, but it's at least a step in the right direction. Or it will be, eventually.