Virgin Atlantic Flying Club redemptions on Virgin America are worth keeping in mind

Over the weekend Virgin Atlantic was added as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, and I dismissed this as mostly meaningless, given that I consider Flying Club miles to be the single least valuable mileage currency out there.

And while I’m sticking to thinking the partnership is mostly meaningless, some in the comments section pointed out that Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with Virgin America is actually potentially lucrative.

To be honest I’ve kind of lost track of the partnerships that Virgin America has. Some are one sided, some are reciprocal, and they’re all pretty damn confusing to me. It’s tougher than keeping up with the Kardashians.

But Virgin Atlantic’s award chart for travel on Virgin America is actually really lucrative:

While the transcon flights in first class and Main Cabin Select aren’t that attractively priced, their shorthaul pricing is really good.

For example, it’s tough to beat 10,000 for roundtrip travel in coach between Los Angeles and San Francisco, or 20,000 miles for first class travel.

Los Angeles to Cancun roundtrip for 20,000 miles in coach or 40,000 miles in first class is pretty damn awesome as well.

The good news is that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions on Virgin America (which is the norm for domestic redemptions anyway), and there aren’t even any ticketing fees for booking over the phone (which is the only place to book this). The bad news is that only roundtrip awards are allowed on Virgin America, and there’s no way to search award availability online (since Virgin America has a revenue based frequent flyer program), so you have to call up Virgin Atlantic to inquire about availability and make the booking.

The truth is in many cases British Airways has similar (or even lower) redemption rates through their Executive Club program for travel on American and Alaska. Though truthfully if I were flying in coach I’d rather fly Virgin America (and get power ports, IFE, and wifi), than Alaska or American (neither of which offer all three).

So with a transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club as we’ve seen in the past, this is definitely a redemption option to keep in mind. Late last year they ran a 35% transfer bonus, so that would’ve lowered the cost of a roundtrip in coach between Los Angeles and San Francisco to under 8,000 Membership Rewards points, and would have lowered the cost of a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Cancun in first class to under 30,000 Membership Rewards points.

Comments

  1. Does virgin america restrict award space for virgin atlantic? If they don’t since it’s a revenue based FF program, this would seem like a really good option to use for last minute travel when cash prices are sky high.

  2. Does Virgin Atlantic impose fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia redemptions? How prevalent is their premium award avalability from LA/SF to Australia?

  3. There are also 80k US-Europe redemptions on partner US Air (which isn’t horrible for Envoy during summer time).

    FYI these redemptions are ending on June 12,2013 – does this mean this is the last day for Star Bookings using US Miles???

    Also as @ architrekt mentions 94k for J on VA US-OZ isn’t bad (surcharges are around $800) – but this is comparable to 150k DL w/o surcharges.

  4. @ Alex — Yes they do, they have a subset of award inventory for partner airlines. So it’s far from perfect space, unfortunately.

  5. @ archiTREKt — They do impose hefty fuel surcharges for travel on Virgin Australia, around $800 roundtrip. They have fairly good award availability in business on the route, much more so than United or Qantas.

  6. @ mac — I suspect the June 12 date has more to do with Virgin hopping onboard with Delta than US Airways leaving the Star Alliance. But I could be wrong…

  7. What about the other Virgin America routes that aren’t on thist list? Are those eligible for Virgin Atlantic redemptions as well or is it restricted only to this list (ie Dallas – Cabo or Dallas – Portland)?

  8. I would be leery of attempting to book space on Virgin America using Virgin Atlantic miles. I called Virgin Atlantic on numerous occasions to book two economy tickets from DC to Los Angeles, provided a broad range of acceptable dates, and was unable to do so. The agents are either stunningly incompetent or there really was no award availability for almost 3 months solid. I also had a very hard time even understanding what was being said as the audio quality when speaking with the call center is atrocious and many agents have regional UK accents that, combined with the poor audio quality, made some of the interactions virtually unintelligible.

    I ended up transferring all my Virgin Atlantic points to Hilton out of sheer frustration.

  9. Nicely analysis. The LA-Cancun route in particular seems to give excellent value. The LA-Portland and LA-Seattle routes also give fairly good value, comparable with avios, especially if combined with an MR transfer bonus. However, I’d check availability with VS before transferring miles. Some partner routes they simply do not get ANY award space for, as far as I can see (e.g. Hawaiian HNL-PPT).

  10. @ Aanarav Sareen — Yes, they sure are, but keep in mind that Virgin America operates some flights up and down the cost that Alaska and American don’t (and vice versa).

  11. If I want to combine a Virgin Atlantic award with a Virgin America award, will they price them cumulatively, a la Avios? For instance, PDX-SFO on VX, followed by SFO-LHR-EDI on VS? Or can I combine them together into one 100,000 mile Upper Class award?

  12. Are there any proxies for Virgin Atlantic availability on Virgin America? If you can book using VX Elevate points, does that mean you should be able to book with VS Flying Club points? I called to check on availability and the guy had to call someone else to find out and then call me back. Of course, the call disconnected before then. Just wondering if there are any shortcuts to check (like Award Wallet) and then I can call when I’m ready to book.

  13. Glad that you have noticed some value in this partnership although it is specific. If you’re fine flying coach, you can’t beat the VX experience.

    It’s also a nice bonus considering you can get these free flights from one night stays at Hilton, especially when they are offering bonus miles.

    Another decent use of VS miles could be with partner NH and their distance based chart. I haven’t explored it fully but when I called before, LAX-NRT in coach is 60k r/t which isn’t bad considering I’m getting my miles staying at Hilton.

  14. @ maccoinnich — Yep, if booking through Flying Club it would be cumulative pricing and they’d have to be issued as separate tickets.

  15. @ Erik B — Unfortunately there aren’t, as far as I know. Virgin America always has availability through their own program since it’s a revenue based program whereby the number of points required is based on the revenue fare. Meanwhile the Virgin Atlantic availability seems to come out of a “bucket” that isn’t otherwise published.

  16. @Paul – I ended up booking through V Atlantic successfully. It is a painfully manual process. They have to go search and put you on hold, but it seemed that if it was available on VX, then VS could book it.

    A few oddities. When the reservation finally came over, my name was booked as “MRERIK” instead of just “ERIK”. I had to call in to get that fixed and it still doesn’t come up automatically in my VX account.

    Also, I am actually flying tomorrow and couldn’t check in only today. I got all the way through the process and then it conked out. I both called and reached out over Twitter and they had no idea why. Told me to just check-in at the airport. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

  17. -is it possible to redeem virg atl miles for a domestic DL one-way? can this be done online or only by phone? does YQ apply?

    -possible to use virg atl miles for a 1way on SQ? high YQ?
    thanks!

  18. @ Mr. Cool — Partner awards have to be booked by phone. There are no fuel surcharges for domestic Delta awards (since Delta doesn’t impose them on revenue tickets), though I don’t believe you can redeem for one-ways. Same goes for Singapore I believe, though they do have fuel surcharges.

  19. I was just told that VS needs 7 days advanced notice to book a VX award. 🙁 This is rather restrictive!

  20. Yes, have booked 2 round trip first class flights, SFO to DFW, on 2 separate occasions. The process wasn’t painful at all. You do need to call in, have the Flyingclub rep hold the ticket, and then wait 4-5 hours for confirmation. Totally worth the plush Virgin America First class experience.

  21. Does anyone know if it’s possible to use Virgin Atlantic points to book a one way Virgin America flights? Or does it have to be round trip?

  22. Can one join both Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Virgin America Elevate? What will that advantages be if one keeps all flight miles count separately i.e if its V.Atlantic flights have miles credited only to V atlantic flying club?

  23. @ Dri — Absolutely. They’re separate airlines, and have entirely separate programs, though neither is especially lucrative for award redemptions.

  24. I called Virgin Atlantic and was told that they don’t partner with Virgin America, but they do partner with Delta. They said the only way I can book a domestic US flight using Virgin Atlantic points/miles would be to call them.

    So is there really no way I can transfer points from Chase Sapphire to Virgin Atlantic and then use them on flights that I see on Virgin America?

  25. @ Tiffany Dang — The agent you spoke with was incorrect. I’d suggest hanging up and calling again.

  26. Has anyone EVER been able to actually successfully redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for Virgin America flights? Searching around Google and Flyertalk looks like the answer is NO. I would love to book LAX-PDX or LAX-CUN but it looks like this option only exists on paper.

  27. @Matt – while I didn’t go through with it, I did get them to successfully price award options with availability on VX using VA miles.

    The comment above about needing 7 days is not true, nor the comment about Delta being a partner not Virgin America. These agents are just wrong, and rather than argue, it’s better to HUCA (hang up, call again).

    I also agree the line is terrible in their call center and the accents are very thick… so make sure you have at least half an hour of time before you call in… you’ll need the patience.

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