TERRIFIC Business Class Award Space On New Seattle-London Flights!

Earlier this year Virgin Atlantic announced they would be add flights between London and Seattle, operated by a Boeing 787-9. The route was originally slated to begin as of May 1, 2017, but Virgin Atlantic will now be taking over the Delta service on the route beginning March 26, 2017.

We’ve already seen some route swaps between Delta and Virgin Atlantic on transatlantic flights, so no real surprise there, particularly as Delta and Virgin Atlantic are consolidating their presence at Heathrow.

The route will be operated with the following schedule:

VS105 London to Seattle departing 11:00AM arriving 1:20PM
VS106 Seattle to London departing 7:10PM arriving 2:00PM (+1 day)

Expanded international service is great for Seattle, but for the rest of us, the best part is the swoon-worthy amounts of award space.

Seriously, so much award space.

The route launches on March 26th, and I see multiple business class award seats on every flight through the end of the schedule.

See the purple bars?

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-002 Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-003 Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-004 Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-005

Those represent days with six or more business class award seats.

Six! Or more!

I’ll wait while you scroll back up to gawk at all the space.

The same space mostly shows on Delta.com, though their search engine is more convoluted.

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-007

What miles should I use?

Delta SkyMiles, almost certainly. They charge just 125,000 miles for a roundtrip award in business class, and you’ll pay just a few dollars in fees. (Those of you who took advantage of the recent bonus offers on the SkyMiles credit cards are sitting pretty right now). Otherwise, you can transfer miles from American Express Membership Rewards (instant) or Starwood Preferred Guest (~5 days).

For that rate you can add flights to Seattle, or from London, but you’ll want to avoid airplanes that say “Delta” on the outside, otherwise the pricing will go bananas.

That still leaves you with a ton of options, however. Alaska Airlines is a Delta partner, so if your city is served by Alaska it should be relatively easy to add a connecting flight. To find Alaska space:

  • Check on aa.com (counter-intuitive, but easier, trust me)
  • Look for “A” and “W” space using ExpertFlyer

On the other end, you can add flights on any SkyTeam partner (though obviously not all of these serve London):

AeroflotAlitaliaDelta Air LinesMiddle East Airlines
Aerolíneas ArgentinasChina AirlinesGaruda IndonesiaSaudia
AeromexicoChina EasternKenya AirwaysTAROM
Air EuropaChina SouthernKLMVietnam Airlines
Air FranceCzech AirlinesKorean AirXiamen Airlines

You will almost certainly have to search segment by segment, write down the flights you want, and then call. Delta.com doesn’t seem to like to route people on Virgin Atlantic when there’s a Delta or Air France option available (at any price).

The big, huge, annoying, caveat to using Delta miles is that even if you do everything right you might get some bizarre pricing situation. So even if all your flights are on partners, and everything is perfect, the pricing engine could decide that Medford > Seattle > London > Prague can’t be less than 80k miles each way.

Just be prepared to play with it a little before transferring your miles. I like to wait to transfer points from American Express until the agent has priced the flights, but that’s not necessary if your trip prices on the website.

What other miles should I use?

If you’re not using SkyMiles, you can still redeem miles for Virgin Atlantic, but you will pay fuel surcharges.

You can, technically, use Virgin Atlantic miles. It’s 100,000 miles for the roundtrip, plus a crap-ton of fuel surcharges:

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-008

Not recommended unless you already have VS miles. Please don’t transfer points to Virgin Atlantic directly for this.

As an alternative, Virgin America Elevate offers a much better value. They haven’t actually loaded the Seattle flights into their calculator, but I think it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be similar to the prices from London and San Francisco.

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-010

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-009

You can also redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles. It’s still 100,000 miles for the roundtrip, and you still pay fuel surcharges. I’m not sure there’s a reason to do this unless you already have Singapore KrisFlyer miles.

Virgin-Atlantic-Seattle-009

Bottom line

Award space from the West Coast to Europe can be hard to come by, and Virgin Atlantic is a fantastic option. It’s a sassy airline, with lie-flat seats, and probably the best business class lounge in Europe.

Virgin-Atlantic-Upper-Class - 4

If you are looking for flights to Europe next Spring, have access to SkyMiles, and live in an Alaska Airlines city, this is pretty much a no-brainer.

Six seats! Tell me what you end up booking!

(h/t @NoelRunkle)

Comments

  1. I realize this is not related to Virgin Atlantic, but generally speaking, which airline’s website do you use to search SkyTeam availability (since Delta’s is “more convoluted”)? Looking to redeem some SkyMiles but am new to SkyTeam redemptions.

  2. @Michael C I think Delta’s search is pretty comprehensive, when searching segment by segment, especially if the route is on a partner. They just get convoluted when you mix Delta flights and/or connecting flights. Air France’s search is decent as well.

  3. @David W – Thanks for the advice. I’m looking to book a ticket from Beijing to Kaohsiung, so it will likely involve China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Xiamen, or possibly Korean Air. Any sense of if Delta or Air France would have more accurate results for these partners?

  4. I didn’t book this route, but I transferred points to Virgin America Elevate to redeem Upper Class tickets for my mom and I from ORD to LHR. Redeeming tickets through VX is definitely your best bang for your buck.

  5. @ Michael C — I agree with @ David W. For most SkyTeam partners I’d use Delta’s site, it’s just in this case (where you’re only searching one route), the Virgin Atlantic site is exceptionally easy.

    For your other question, Air France, Delta, or ExpertFlyer could work. I’d check two, and/or make sure it’s bookable with the mileage currency you’re interested in before moving miles. http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/12/18/where-to-find-award-space/

  6. I’m lost on why people think VA upper class is so great, the product is old, and if you are playing the points/miles game, then you know there are better ways to get Europe then VA.

  7. @ Tony — Well, I personally like the sassiness of Virgin Atlantic (VS), and think it’s a fun airline to fly. From a purely practical standpoint though, award space from the West Coast to Europe is tough. If you combine Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver you only have a handful of direct routes to Europe, and very limited award space in premium cabins.

    There are better products, potentially, but good luck getting 6+ seats on them in Spring.

  8. You mentioned not seeing a reason to use Singapore miles for this…is there a better option for booking via Chase points? And is it possible to book this one-way with Singapore miles? I’ve spent down my Skymiles balance to the point that i can cover one way but not return…thinking of booking either one or both directions via Chase transfer to SQ.

  9. @ Steve — In that case I would just go ahead and transfer miles to Virgin Atlantic directly, as you’d be able to book online. If you use SkyMiles for the outbound, and VS miles for the return that should give you the lowest total surcharges.

  10. I did this search on Delta, it shows the flights open if you choose non-stop sea-lhr, but if you click on them it says they aren’t available and to call reservations. Maybe it’s just not bookable online. But then I tried it on Virgin Atlantic and it says “sorry, flying club miles cannot be used for this route.” So did something change?

    Also, to clarify. Are you saying that through Delta you “should” be able to add a connecting flight to Seattle and from London to elsewhere in Europe for the same miles? (if it prices right?) And you’d call Delta and say you want to book a partner flight, and give them the flight numbers you’ve found? I presume your connecting flights have to show business class saver availability as well when you look them up?

  11. @ Cindi Anderson — The Delta site can have a lag. I booked some of these earlier, so they are bookable, but availability might be changing rapidly. You have the process exactly right for adding partner saver flights.

    For the Virgin Atlantic site, you have to select “London Heathrow/LHR” as the airport. If you just search “London/LON” it won’t show mileage options, annoyingly.

  12. I just booked last night SFO to Amsterdam in business. 107K round trip plus $55 on an A330. Last week I couldn’t get this route for 107K but was able to get Seattle to AMS for those miles. Was going to book that but this week SFO opened up. Of course its SFO – SEA – AMS and the flight from SFO – SEA is a putz plane. But saves me the trouble of booking a flight up to seattle. Also, last week I was still able to get 58K one way but I could only get 69K one way last night but still able to get 107K RT.

  13. @ Tiffany Thank you so much! I booked my first flights via points with this deal! Still in shock that it all worked. Seattle to London next July…wow, just wow!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *