Emirates and Virgin America announced a new partnership today, whereby Skywards and Elevate members can earn and redeem miles for travel on both carriers.
While Emirates Skywards hasn’t published their earning and redemption chart for travel on Virgin America yet, Virgin America Elevate has published their charts for travel on Emirates.
Virgin America Elevate members earn anywhere between 20% and 80% of actual miles flown for revenue travel on Emirates:
It seems low to give only 80% of miles flown for first class, but keep in mind that Virgin America Elevate points are more valuable than most points currencies (for example, instead of transferring at a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards, points transfer to Virgin America Elevate at a 2:1 ratio). So while I don’t think Virgin America Elevate points are double as valuable as other points currencies, I do think they’re probably 50% more valuable.
You can find the award calculator for Virgin America redemptions on Emirates here. First it’s worth noting that Virgin America Elevate points can only be redeemed for travel on Emirates starting October 24, 2013. Also, while one-way redemptions are possible, it seems like first class redemptions aren’t.
Also, Virgin America seems to be imposing huge fuel surcharges for travel on Emirates, up to $1,410 per person in business class.
For example, between New York and Dubai they charge either 45,000 points plus $720 in taxes/fees for economy class, or 95,000 points plus $1,410 in taxes/fees for business class:
Between New York and Milan they charge either 24,000 miles plus $250 in taxes/fees for economy class, or 59,000 points plus $670 in taxes/fees for business class:
None of these really represent especially compelling values once you factor in the fuel surcharges, however, if you have American Express Membership Rewards points this could still be a good option, as you’d be paying similar fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways or Lufthansa.
The best options for award redemptions on Emirates are still through Alaska Mileage Plan and Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. The downsides of those two programs are that through Alaska Mileage Plan you can only book Emirates award tickets either originating or terminating in North America, while through Japan Airlines you can only book Emirates award tickets for roundtrip travel. So I suppose Virgin America Elevate does fill some gap for those looking to make one-way redemptions not originating or terminating in North America, as well as for those with American Express points.