Delta SkyMiles now redeemable on Virgin Atlantic… sort of

Earlier in the week Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced most of the details of their new joint venture, with plans for reciprocal award redemptions to go live today, June 29.

While Virgin Atlantic already published an award chart for travel on Delta, Delta was slow to release the details for redeeming SkyMiles for travel on Virgin Atlantic. My prediction was that they’d charge the same number of miles for travel on Virgin Atlantic as on all their partners, that they’d have full access to Virgin Atlantic award availability, and that they’d impose fuel surcharges for travel on Virgin Atlantic. I was hoping I’d be proven wrong and that there wouldn’t be fuel surcharges, though.

Well, the good news is that I was proven wrong. But I was proven wrong in a way I didn’t want to be.

Let’s start with the good news. Delta seems to have full access to Virgin Atlantic coach award space, and they aren’t imposing fuel surcharges on those redemptions as long as they’re not originating in Europe (Delta imposes fuel surcharges on all redemptions originating in Europe). If you search for award space on delta.com, Virgin Atlantic coach options should automatically show up if they’re available.

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And they price out correctly at the same cost as all other partners, so for a transatlantic award it’s 60,000 miles roundtrip in coach.

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Delta’s website will even automatically display Virgin Atlantic award space for itineraries that involve connections, like flying Virgin Atlantic from New York to Delhi via London (I’d rather fly them in coach than any US airline).

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So while I haven’t surveyed every route, it does appear as if Delta has access to most, if not all, Virgin Atlantic coach award space, and they don’t even impose fuel surcharges. That’s a huge win for those that redeem miles for coach.

That’s the good news… do your best to savor it, cause it’s all you’re getting.

I could’ve very well lived with Delta imposing fuel surcharges for redemptions on Virgin Atlantic if they at least gave us access to all Virgin Atlantic award space. Instead they’ve done the opposite — they’re not imposing fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic as long as you’re originating outside of Europe, but they’re blocking all Upper Class award space to/from the US as of now. I can’t find a single Virgin Atlantic flight to/from the US with Upper Class award space. Now, it’s only day one of award redemptions on Virgin Atlantic using SkyMiles so I suppose it’s possible that they just haven’t been loaded. But at the same time that’s far too convenient, so my money is on this being intentional.

Meanwhile Delta does seem to have access to some Upper Class award space for routes not to/from the US. I can’t find any rhyme or reason to which flights are available, because I’ve been comparing the availability calendar on Virgin Atlantic’s website to what Delta seems to have access to, and it seems to be totally random.

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For example, I do see Upper Class award space between London and Mumbai for 80,000 SkyMiles roundtrip. If you’re originating in London you do pay fuel surcharges, so in addition to the miles you pay ~$842 in fuel surcharges and taxes (which includes the hefty UK air passenger duty).

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Meanwhile if you originate in Mumbai you would’t pay the fuel surcharges but would instead just pay the APD on the return, so in addition to the miles you’re looking at ~$350.

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So yeah, I don’t want to jump the gun, but that seems to be the current state of affairs with redeeming SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic. This is good news for those that want to redeem miles in coach (hopefully the minority of you), and bad news for those of us wanting to redeem miles for premium cabins.

What do you guys think? Anyone actually optimistic they’ll start releasing premium cabin award space to/from the US? Is anyone seeing a pattern as to which Upper Class award space they’re releasing to SkyMiles members?

Comments

  1. Hmmm, interesting development.

    Fingers crossed for US awards, although as an occasional DL flyer based in the UK, this is still more or less a win for me.

    There are going to be a LOT of unhappy campers if there’s no US availability though.

  2. Did Delta do the same and block premium cabins on their transatlantic flights from virgin atlantic flying club members?

  3. @Greg – The joke is they already block it from their own SkyMils members.

    Though have noticed premium cabin avail on Delta flights to / from LHR has improved lately.

  4. @ Grant Thomas — Right, that’s the same for all of Delta’s partners. You can redeem for one-ways, though it’s the same cost as a roundtrip.

  5. Hmm, interesting. As a UK-based VS member I’ve got mixed feelings! If they’d gone for full inventory with no fuel charges for trips originating outside Europe then I’d have been pretty annoyed as I’d be unlikely to be able to make much use of it. If it was no fuel surchages in either direction then at least I could book using DL/Amex MR, but I’d still worry that VS would be rather swamped by DL members given how decent a product UC is. Will be interesting to see what happens – I’ve racked up a decent number of VS miles via the Hilton London/Scotland promo and would like some availability to redeem them on an economy -> UC upgrade šŸ˜›

  6. @tassojunior — SQ put out a press release last week stating that the transaction was complete but all codesharing and FFP partnerships will remain in place.

    @lucky — Who do you think is driving this outcome? On the one hand, I have to give Delta some credit for apparently refusing to charge fuel surcharges on award tickets, since not many carriers are holding that line any more. But then the question is, does Delta’s refusal to charge YQ result in VS blocking space to them? Or is Delta just deciding (a la Starnet blocking from United of old) to limit their members’ access to VS tickets?

  7. @ Bgriff — Typically when airlines impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions they’re keeping the money (or more accurately they’re using it to pay partner carriers whatever the cost is, though my understanding is that the YQ itself doesn’t “pass through” to the operating airline).

    Like most things Delta, my guess is they started negotiating on price. Virgin Atlantic wanted more than Delta wanted to pay, so they agreed to just block the space altogether. And of course in the world of Delta that means it’s entirely Virgin Atlantic’s fault. šŸ˜‰

  8. Can’t you mix Skyteam and VS on a Delta award? LHR-India has an APD of $250 in business … wouldn’t AMS-LHR-BOM on KL/VS lower that dramatically?

    I actually have a one-way booked to India for later, so I’m looking to find an interesting open-jaw trip with VS using DL miles with DEL/BOM-LHR as the start.. Maybe JNB/CPT but there’s not much avail there.

  9. @ Amol — You sure can, so that is a way to avoid the APD. Still paying the huge fuel surcharges, but that would make it a bit better.

  10. Delta’s primary purpose in business is to punish its customers. The strange part is that they still have any.

  11. I just booked a one-way flight via Delta.com from IAD to BOM for summer 2014. It was 112,000 miles for Virgin Atlantic – economy class and for the return from BLR, it was 112,000 on Air France via business class. From this experience, I confirm that I did not see any availability of upper class on Virgin Atlantic. THings are what they areā€¦.burn your miles NOWā€¦.devaluation is the sign of airlines not wanting your loyalty anymore.

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