Virgin America Eliminates Award Fuel Surcharges On Virgin Australia

Virgin America Elevate is an interesting frequent flyer program given that’s it’s a hybrid between being revenue based and zone based on the redemption side.

In other words, when you redeem Virgin America Elevate points for travel on Virgin America, the number of points required is directly correlated to the cash cost of a ticket. However, if you’re redeeming points for travel on a partner airline, they have an award chart.

One of Virgin America’s airline partners is Virgin Australia, which is the airline with the most saver level business class award space between the US and Australia. The only “catch” when it comes to redeeming Elevate points on Virgin Australia is that they’ve imposed huge fuel surcharges. For example, a roundtrip business class award between Los Angeles and Sydney has cost about ~$850 in taxes and carrier imposes surcharges.

Virgin-Australia-Business-Class
Virgin Australia’s current 777-300ER business class

No more Elevate fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia

As of today, Virgin America Elevate has eliminated fuel surcharges for travel on Virgin Australia.

That means the cost of a one-way award redemption between Los Angeles and Sydney is now as follows (the costs between Los Angeles and Brisbane are the same):

Virgin-Fuel-Surcharges-1

Meanwhile the cost of a roundtrip redemption is as follows:

Virgin-Fuel-Surcharges-2

Crunching the numbers

At the moment Virgin America is offering an 80% bonus on purchased Elevate points, meaning the cost per purchased Elevate point can be as low as ~2.89 cents per point (keep in mind on a per point basis, Elevate points are more valuable than most other airline mileage currencies).

At ~2.89 cents per point, 45,000 points would cost you ~$1,300. Add in the $40 in taxes one-way, and you’re looking at ~$1,340 for a one-way business class ticket between the US and Australia. Now, the major catch is that Virgin America only lets you buy 20,000 Elevate points per calendar year before any bonuses, so that means through the current promotion you can buy a maximum of 36,000 points.

Bottom line

This is an awesome development, and the first time I’ve actually been tempted to buy Virgin America Elevate points. This is also a great development for those that earn Virgin America Elevate points “organically,” though flying them, spending money on their credit card, etc.

Also keep in mind that Virgin Australia will soon be introducing a new reverse herringbone business class product, which looks fantastic. That improves the value proposition of this even further.

Virgin-Australia-New-Business-Class-1

Virgin-Australia-New-Business-Class-3

(Tip of the hat to Robert)

Comments

  1. No mention of transfers available from Amex? I know it’s a terrible deal, but I would consider it if it’s a reasonable amount of points I need to top off my account for a redemption.

  2. This isn’t a Virgin America change, this is a Virgin Australia change. VA stopped charging fuel surcharges on their transpacific flights a month or two ago. VX has actually just been really slow to update their award chart accordingly.

  3. Does this elimination of fees also have relevance to getting the Virgin ATLANTIC card, which has a nicer signup than the the Virgin America card?

  4. @ Steve — I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe anything has changed with Flying Club miles. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  5. @ FreeTravelGuys — If you’re doing that, I think you’re just better off booking through Delta SkyMiles.

  6. @ Jonathan — Hmmm, I believe you can only do one or the other in a calendar year for a given account. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  7. So with the elimination of fuel surcharges it would now make sense to wait for a transfer bonus from Amex MR (30-50% historically) to Virgin America Elevate rather than transferring MR to Delta Skymiles. I wonder if @gloreglabert is correct in that this was a Virgin Australia change. This should mean that awards using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Virgin Australia also wouldn’t charge fuel surcharges now, correct?

  8. So with the elimination of fuel surcharges it would now make sense to wait for a transfer bonus from Amex MR (30-50% historically) to Virgin America Elevate rather than transferring MR to Delta Skymiles. I wonder if @gloreglabert is correct in that this was a Virgin Australia change. This should mean that awards using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Virgin Australia also wouldn’t charge fuel surcharges now?

  9. @Tom – no need to take my word for it. Search for a flight on ITA and look at the fare breakdown. No YQ.

  10. Anyone have experience if these points.com purchases qualify for 3x on the VX Visa card? The T&C says “You’ll also earn three points per $1 on all other Virgin America purchases, including in-flight purchases on RED™.” The exclusions don’t mention points. I’m just concerned because its processed by points.com

    Also, I think I can purchase 20K for myself and have a family/friend gift 20K: “Members can purchase a maximum of 20,000 Elevate points before any bonus in their individual account per calendar year. Members can receive a maximum gift of 20,000 Elevate points before any bonus in their individual account per calendar year.” So can one can actually get 40K * 1.8 = 72K for ~$2,600 through this offer?

  11. @ Jay — Yep, it looks like that might actually work. And I don’t believe the purchase would qualify as a Virgin America purchase since it’s processed by points.com, though I could be wrong.

  12. Lucky, if you get an award with VIrgin Australia using Elevate points, is it possible to get an infant ticket too? Their website says you cannot redeem for an infant ticket but is there any way to purchase one through Elevate or do I have to do so via Virgin Australia directly?

  13. @ Jon — If it’s exclusively for travel on Virgin Australia then you’ll probably have to book the infant ticket through them. It should be 10% of the paid fare for the cabin you’re traveling in.

  14. Lucky,

    Does VA charge YQ on Singapore award redemption? Where to find VA award chart for Singapore airline? How about availability?

    Thanks!

    Jennifer

  15. @ Jennifer — Yes they do impose fuel surcharges. They only have access to economy space for the most part. Go to the Elevate page and you’ll see the redemption rates.

  16. Hi Lucky, How do you check for redemption availability on virgin atlantic using elevate points? Does virgin america have the same access to virgin atlantic reward spaces as shown on the VS website? Thanks

  17. Why would it be a better deal to use Delta if you’re transferring from Amex? There’s the transfer tax (albeit capped at what – $99?) and Delta doesn’t even have an award chart anymore. Why wouldn’t transferring Amex to Virgin be a better bet?

  18. @ CJ — Well because the transfer ratio isn’t as good, and you can’t (at least in theory) include positioning flights as part of the award. It all depends on what you’re trying to book and if there’s a transfer bonus, though.

  19. @Jennifer – Drew at Travel is Free just posted an article that said there’s no fuel surcharges on Singapore JFK-FRA using Elevate miles. If you’re flying to Europe, maybe something to look into.

  20. 80k business class round trip lax-syd is a no brainer. what does “include positioning flights as part of the award” mean?

  21. @ kasey — It means that if you booked a Delta award and there was saver award space you can include the flight from your hometown to LAX at no additional cost. With Virgin America it would cost you extra.

  22. @Lucky

    Thanks. Does anyone know how much award space VA releases for their flights? And can you book these online or do you have to call?

  23. Lucky,
    Now that the fuel charges are gone how do I book an economy LAX-SYD RT for 40K points? Thank you.

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