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’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):
Meanwhile the cost of a roundtrip redemption is as follows:
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.
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.
(Tip of the hat to Robert)