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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club cheat sheet for using your miles

by on Fri April 29, 2016 • No Comment
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What airlines can you book?

While Virgin Atlantic is not a member of an alliance, the Flying Club program has several earning and redemption partners.

AirlineWhere to search award space
Air New ZealandUnited.com
All Nippon Airways (ANA)United.com
Delta Air LinesAirFrance.us or Delta.com
Hawaiian AirlinesCall Flying Club
Jet AirwaysCall Flying Club
Malaysia AirlinesBA.com
Singapore AirlinesAeroplan.com
South African AirwaysUnited.com
Virgin AmericaCall Flying Club
Virgin AustraliaDelta.com

Note: Most partners do not allow one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip.

Where to search for award space

Award space for Virgin Atlantic flights can be searched online. Partner award space can be searched online via the partner airline’s website itself or alliance partners.

Partner awards must be booked by telephone. The US Flying Club Helpline is +1-800-365-9500.

How much do awards cost?

Awards booked on Virgin follow a simple format. Prices are based around round-trips to the UK, with one-way redemptions available at half the cost.

To calculate the cost of an itinerary connecting in the UK, such as New York-London-Johannesburg roundtrip in economy, simply add the round trip cost of New York-London (35,000 miles) and London-Johannesburg (50,000) together for the total cost of 85,000 miles.

The US is effectively split into two redemption zones.

  • The first and cheaper zone includes New York, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago. Round trips to the UK are priced at 35,000, 55,000, and 80,000 miles in Economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class (business), respectively.
  • The second zone includes Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Economy, Premium Economy, and Business awards price out at 42,500, 70,000, and 100,000 miles, respectively.
  • Mexico (Cancun) and the Caribbean are 45,000 miles in Economy, but use the same 70k and 100k redemptions in Premium Economy/Business as the Florida/West Coast zone.

A full chart is available from Virgin Atlantic here.

virginawardchart

Tip: Partner award pricing depends upon the carrier and the specific route. A full list of partners may be viewed here. To view the full earn/spend charts, it is helpful to change your location so that you view the United Kingdom rather than the US site.

Cash and points

It is possible to book tickets using a combination of cash and points. A “Miles Plus Money” ticket offers a fixed discount. 3,000 miles earns $45 off of a round-trip Economy fare. 7,500 miles earns a $120 discount off of a Premium Economy fare. 15,000 miles shaves $300 off of a Business class ticket. This yields a “cents per mile” value of 1.5 cents for the Economy discount, 1.6 for Premium Economy, and 2 for Business.

Tip: These discounts cannot be multiplied, so you cannot pay 30,000 miles to save $600 on a Business class ticket.

“Combi” fares allow members to redeem a one-way Economy or Premium Economy award and combine it with a cash fare return flight. The return leg is priced at ½ of the published round-trip cash fare. Combi fares are not available for Upper Class itineraries.

Award change and booking fees

Changes of date, route, or class of service to an existing award ticket can be made for $50. Cancellations made outside 24 hours prior to departure cost $50, and all miles, fees, and surcharges will be refunded. With 24 hours, no miles will be refunded, and $50 will be charged to refund taxes, fees, and surcharges.

When are award seats made available?

Awards on Virgin can be booked online 330 days out.

Can you waitlist awards and upgrades?

Awards cannot be waitlisted.

What stopovers are allowed?

Virgin allows stopovers in the UK, although UK departures taxes will apply for the outbound sector. On a one-way redemption New York to Johannesburg, this incur $110 in extra fees. Given Virgin prices awards by segment, there are no savings to booking a one way with a stopover vs two separate one way tickets.

What are the best award values?

On occasion, Virgin will discount its own awards. For a US-based flyer, redemptions need to be considered carefully due to the large surcharges incurred. An economy return New York-London incurs over $400 in taxes and surcharges. When a cash ticket is $860, your cents per mile on the discount is 1.1, which is dreadful. The best value, even with the large surcharges, will be a Business Class redemption. The Business Class redemption will require 80,000 miles and $1,100 in surcharges, but the savings over a cash fare ($6,000+ return) is enormous.

Itineraries without a London stopover (and thus UK departure taxes) are going to be a somewhat better value, particularly in the Business cabin. 180,000 miles and $1500 will get a round-trip to Johannesburg.

BUT, the better values come from partners.

  • Delta Airlines flights are all available for redemption with Virgin Flying Club miles, though connecting flights may be priced separately, which can make awards expensive. However, flights from the U.S. to Europe don’t include any fuel surcharges, making the 100,000 mile roundtrip Business Class award a good value. 90,000 miles to South America in Business Class (or 45,000 in Economy) is a good deal on flights to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. There’s a rundown of how to book Delta flights with Virgin Flying Club miles here.
  • Virgin America offers (round trip) award redemption opportunities from 10,000 miles in economy and 20,000 in First (Los Angeles – San Francisco). Transcontinental flights such as New York-Los Angeles cost 25,000 in Economy and 75,000 in First, return. One-way redemptions are not available.
  • Hawaiian Airlines redemptions price at 40,000 in Economy and 80,000 in First for Hawaii-Mainland return tickets. Intra Hawaii flights are priced at 15,000 miles in Economy and 30,000 in First. One-ways and an open jaw are permitted, but flights must be booked at least 7 days in advance.

Upgrades and how much they cost

Virgin Atlantic allows Flying Club members to upgrade eligible tickets with miles, but only on its own flights.

Both single and double class upgrades are allowed.

  • Eligible Economy Class fare buckets are: Y, B, R, L, U, M, E, Q, and X.
  • Eligible Premium Economy fare buckets are W, S, and H.

Upgrades are priced on a one-way basis.

  • A single class upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy from the Atlanta/Chicago/NYC/DC zone to the UK would cost 15,000 miles.
  • A double upgrade to Business would require 35,000 miles.
  • An upgrade from Premium Economy to Business would require 20,000 miles each way.

From Florida or the West Coast, slightly higher costs apply: 17,500 miles from Economy to Premium Economy, 22,500 miles from Premium Economy to Business, and 40,000 miles from Economy to Business.

The full chart can be viewed here.

Bear in mind that booking an upgradeable Economy ticket may come at a substantial premium to the cheapest available ticket.

  • An upgradeable Economy round-trip ticket Los Angeles-London in late May costs $1,555 plus about $500 in extra taxes and fees (about $2,000 total), while the cheapest Economy ticket costs $1,046.
  • The cheapest Premium Economy round-trip ticket is $1,880 plus about $400 in extra taxes and fees (about $2,200 total).

A similar $500 spread is found pricing New York-London.

  • The upgradeable Economy ticket costs $1,345 plus about $500 in fees (about $1,800 total), while the cheapest available is $827.
  • The cheapest Premium Economy ticket is $1,490 plus about $400 in fees (about $1,900 total).

You can read our guide to upgrading on Virgin Atlantic here.

Tip: When considering an upgrade, remember to factor in various taxes and fees. This will include additional fuel surcharges and the UK’s premium cabin tax levied on all tickets booked in a cabin higher than Economy. Upgrading from Economy to Business will run roughly $500 in additional taxes & fees roundtrip, while upgrading Premium Economy will require about $400 extra roundtrip. When factoring these in, it’s often a better deal to buy Premium Economy and upgrade, earning more miles, and spending fewer on the upgrade, than the buy an upgradeable Economy fare.

Alternative miles to book Virgin Atlantic flights

Virgin Atlantic’s partners, except SAS, have a reciprocal Earn / Spend miles arrangement. Delta, Singapore, Virgin America, Hawaiian, and others allow their members to book Virgin Atlantic flights.

Delta SkyMiles redemptions on Virgin Atlantic flights will avoid fuel surcharges, except for trips which begin in Europe.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer has less favorable redemption prices and you can see the award chart for Virgin Atlantic flights with KrisFlyer miles here.

Virgin America has a very favorable award chart for Virgin Atlantic flights, and it is a 1:1 transfer partner with Starwood Preferred Guest, letting you for example book an Upper Class ticket from New York for just 35,000 miles round trip.

What is a Virgin mile worth?

We think Virgin miles are worth about 1.5 cents each. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get very little value out of your Virgin miles – 1 cent or less per mile, especially if you use miles for Economy tickets when they’re already cheap in cash.

But if you save your miles for times when tickets are expensive, Economy Class awards can get you 1.5 cents or more in value, even with fuel surcharges. For example, with a roundtrip Economy ticket from the East Coast costing 35,000 miles plus about $400 in taxes and fees, you can get 1.5 cents in value when all cash tickets are going for $925 or more, which isn’t uncommon.

If you save up for Business Class tickets on Delta, or Upper Class on Virgin you can get 2, 3, or more cents in value from your miles, especially considering Delta flights don’t incur surcharges.

Credit Cards that earn Flying Club miles

Unusually for a non-US airline, Virgin Atlantic offers two credit cards, the Virgin Atlantic Black Card and the Virgin Atlantic White Card. Both are World Elite Mastercards from Bank of America, but the Black Card offers more generous sign-up, retention, and earning bonuses.

American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi Thank You Rewards each allow members to convert accrued points to Virgin Atlantic miles, making it easy to stockpile for an award via credit card spending.

Hotel points that transfer to Flying Club miles

Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Intercontinental IHG Rewards Club, Marriot, and Starwood SPG programs allow for the conversion of points to Flying Club Miles.

  • SPG points convert at a rate of 1:1, plus a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.
  • Hilton HHonors points transfer at a rate of 10,000 points for 1,500 miles.
  • Hyatt Gold Passport members may exchange 5000 points for 3,000 miles. If 50,000 points are exchanged, a bonus of 7,500 additional miles will apply.
  • IHG Rewards Club points transfer at a rate of 10,000 points for 2,000 miles.
  • Marriott Rewards points can be exchanged at a rate of 10,000 points for 2,000 miles.

You can also transfer Flying Club miles into Hilton HHonors points. Every 1 mile gets you 1.5 HHonors points.

Can you book awards for others?

Flying Club members may book awards for others.

Can you transfer miles?

Miles can be transferred at a cost of $13.50 per 1,000 miles.

When do Flying Club miles expire?

Miles expire after 36 months, unless there is account activity (earning or redemption). A single transaction once every 36 months will prevent expiration.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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