Revisiting Virgin America Elevate’s partnership with Singapore Airlines now that availability is loaded

About a week ago I shared the details of the partnership between Virgin America and Singapore Airlines, which in some ways looked quite promising. Then a day later I posted about the Virgin America Visa card which is issued by Barclays, since I thought the new partnership could have potentially huge implications on the value of the card.

Virgin America’s award pricing for travel on Singapore Airlines between the US and Asia is simple and extremely lucrative — it’s 35,000 Elevate points for coach, 95,000 Elevate points for business class, and 130,000 Elevate points for first class. Best of all there are no fuel surcharges on these redemptions, while Singapore Airlines will often charge $600+ per ticket when booking directly through their KrisFlyer program.

While American Express Membership Rewards points only convert to Virgin America Elevate points at a 2:1 ratio, the Virgin America VisaĀ® Signature Card accrues one Elevate point per dollar spent on everyday purchases. So if you’re a big spender and a lot of your spend is in categories that otherwise wouldn’t accrue bonuses, I’d say this has the potential to be a phenomenal card.

Virgin America redemptions on Singapore Airlines only became possible a few days ago, so one big question lingered — would Virgin America get access to the same award space that Singapore gives their Star Alliance partners, or the same award space that Singapore gives their own KrisFlyer members? Singapore generally doesn’t release any premium cabin longhaul award space in their new first and business class to their Star Alliance partner airlines, which means for all practical purposes you can’t use miles from Aeroplan, United, US Airways, etc., to travel on Singapore Airlines out of the US.

Optimistically I had hoped that Virgin America would have access to the same space as KrisFlyer for two reasons:

  • Virgin America published a first and business class longhaul award chart specifically for travel on Singapore, and that would be a moot point entirely if they didn’t have access to that inventory. If they hadn’t intended to give them more access and planned properly it seems like it would’ve been in both airlines’ best interest to only publish a coach longhaul award chart.
  • Virgin America is a much smaller partner than virtually all Star Alliance member, so the impact of releasing premium cabin award space to them wouldn’t be nearly as great.

Well, figuring out what space they have access to has been a real adventure. The Virgin America partner award desk is what you’d get if you combined the IT of Delta SkyMiles, the knowledge of US Airways Dividend Miles agents, and the patience of Priority Club Rewards agents.

Every time I’ve called to ask about Singapore award space the agent has taken a deep breath as if they were about to manage a space shuttle launch. They’ve put me on hold for about 20 minutes, and then come back and asked if they can call me back while they investigate further.

Well based on my queries thus far it seems as if Virgin America has access to the same Singapore premium cabin award space as the Star Alliance, meaning all longhaul first and business class seats operated by the new product are off limits.

So I hope ya’ll don’t mind, but I’ve taken the liberty of helping Virgin America rewrite their award charts in a way that’s easier to understand:

šŸ˜‰

So is this partnership utterly useless, and for that matter is the Virgin America Elevate Visa useless? If you’re looking to redeem for international premium cabins, maybe. But for coach awards this card does still present an amazing value.

35,000 points roundtrip to Asia is unheard of good, and availability on Singapore in economy is generally excellent.

But you also should be able to redeem miles for regional business class, where availability is both excellent and Virgin America has attractive redemption rates. For example, roundtrip travel between Singapore and Bangkok costs only 13,000 points in business class and 6,000 points in coach.

Domestically Virgin America Elevate points are still quite valuable. Each point gets you roughly 2.2 cents towards the cost of a revenue ticket. That’s the same I value Starpoints at, so for everyday spend the Virgin America Visa Card ties for the most rewarding for non-bonus categories.

What about Virgin America’s other partners? Well, they partner with Hawaiian, and have phenomenal redemption rates between the west coast and Hawaii at just 20,000 points roundtrip in coach or 50,000 points roundtrip in first class.

Redemption rates on Virgin Atlantic are quite good as well, at just 35,000 points roundtrip in Upper Class, plus the standard taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges of ~$1,100 per ticket. Virgin Atlantic’s only partner which doesn’t impose fuel surcharges is Hawaiian, and they charge 125,000 miles for the same award. I don’t know about you guys, but all else being equal I’d rather pay an extra $800 in fuel surcharges than burn an extra 90,000 points.

So to sum it up this partnership isn’t quite as good as I had hoped, though can still be extremely valuable under many circumstances. I think the key is that the Virgin America VisaĀ® Signature Card can be very rewarding if you’re a big credit card spender. With other cards you can easily transfer points and earn bonuses through category spend. That’s not the case on this card, though if you put hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on cards, I’d put a substantial chunk of spend on this card.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I earn a referral bonus for anyone approved through the above links. Thanks for your support!)

Comments

  1. I’ve known virgin since they were a little record store in the UK. One thing i learned was never ever trust anything they say in marketing material. There was always a catch (stupid little things like…get $20 of your next purchase and would get 10 x $2 vouchers that could not be used together, or special price airline tickets and no one answering the phone until after offer ended). They lost my trust. Thanks for checking their award availability.

  2. Does Virgin America allow one ways on SQ? 3k points for economy one way between SIN and BKK sounds like a great deal.

  3. Any idea on whether or not you can do an open jaw redemption? Say SFO-SIN then HKG to SFO with an Avios award bridging them?

  4. You call the partnership “utterly useless”, and then call it an “amazing value” for coach awards in the next sentence?

    There are seats behind Business class you know? šŸ˜‰ In fact that where most people end up.

  5. @ Murphy — Haha, I didn’t say it was utterly useless, but posed the question as to whether it is (and answered the question by saying it’s not). šŸ˜‰

  6. Wow, you’re totally right… es tut mir leid!

    So we now know I can’t read (and my post above confirms I also can’t write).

  7. Lucky
    I would rather burn 90k points on HI than spend 800$ extra
    HI points are easy to accumulate and can be transferred among each other’s accounts and can be from Amex as well.

    I could not help laughing at the charts you made for SQ; much more useful than the garbage they print out wasting all the extra space.

  8. ok this seems to work very well for me. But as I’m not based in the US, how would I get my hands on some elevate points?

  9. @ lsed — Unfortunately given their lack of partners that’s kind of tough. They partner with the US Membership Rewards program, but that’s about it.

  10. I check the web miles converted and can’t find this information. Can you transfer Amex MR points or Starwood points into Virgin America?

  11. This is the T&C for flying Singapore airlines using Virgin Atlantic miles; wonder if it is same for Virgin America.

    Spending miles:

    Please note: Redemptions in Business Class and First Class on their A380, 777-300ER and A340-500 aircraft types are not available.

    One stopover and one turnaround open jaw is permitted per round trip journey within the same zone.

  12. @ Dave Op — You say you found it, but for anyone else wondering you can convert Membership Rewards at a 2:1 ratio and can’t convert Starwood.

  13. @ Ford — Unfortunately Virgin America Elevate points and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are completely different currencies. Sorry!

  14. Looked through some options regarding earning miles.

    Thought about earning from hotel stays but Fairmont doesnt credit them.
    Perhaps options are Hhonors.

    Buying miles is not cheap either, though transferring miles is $20 for 1000. Not too bad if you can get some 500 for free šŸ˜‰

    Sigh… why didnt i credit Topguest daily way back when. lol

  15. Lucky, you’ve got your funny hat on today šŸ™‚ more than on other days. 2 points which got me chuckling – 1)’Managing a space shuttle launch’ HA! & 2) the re-written Award-chart.

    Well-written & Keep it up!

  16. 2 VA credit card personnel insisted they don’ mind manufactured spending. I don’t have the T&C but that would make accruing miles a lot easier, and VA is only 50k miles to UK in Upper on V. Atlantic whereas Virgin Atlantic is 100k from the West Coast. So traveling westward VA is a steal. Too bad the Business and First Singapore isn’t released. That was exciting , briefly.

  17. has anyone found a valid source to check emirates or singapore award space that can line up with what virgin America sees? I use the ANA tool and it says lots of seats open on the date, but then I check with virgin american and they say it is being wait listed by singapore airlines and therefore cant be sold. Could it be the agents dont know how to grab a seat? could it be they just dont want to do it as they might lose money so they say it is not available when it really is?

    Alaska airlines taking over is the BEST news I have heard of in years in the airline arena. Award bookings will be possible and visible when that happens. But I think my Elevate points will be expired before the AK ownership takes over.

  18. To piggy back onto Darren’s question, I got the same response despite finding regional intra-asia biz availability on both ANA and Experflyer. The one guy I spoke to last night told me (after 1-2 mins on hold) that I could “try calling Singapore to see if they’d release space.” (huh?) I suppose it’s worth trying again to see if someone else might be more motivated?

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