It’s a big day for Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate, as it’s now possible to convert your Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio (though a transfer in the other direction isn’t possible).
However, that’s not the only new development today.
It’s now also possible to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on Virgin America. This is an interesting opportunity, given that Virgin America Elevate is a revenue based program, meaning the number of points required for a redemption is based on how much a ticket would cost. Meanwhile Alaska Mileage Plan is a traditional program, meaning award availability comes at fixed costs.
Why I’m excited about redeeming Alaska miles on Virgin America
Virgin America’s domestic product is far superior to what’s offered by Alaska. Virgin America offers recliner seats in first class with 55″ of pitch, so it’s equivalent to an old business class recliner seat. This is hands down the best domestic first class product out there, at least for regional flights.
However, one downside is that Virgin America has only one type of first class seat, so they’re not quite as competitive in transcon markets, whether other airlines offer fully flat beds. Still, the product is significantly better than anything that’s offered by Alaska.
Alaska Mileage Plan redemption costs on Virgin America
Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions on Virgin America follow a “traditional” redemption chart, meaning the number of miles required is the same as long as there’s award availability. The one-way saver award costs are as follows:
- Travel within a state: 7,500 miles in economy, 15,000 miles in first class
- Travel within the lower 48: 12,500 miles in economy, 25,000 miles in first class
- Travel between the mainland and Hawaii: 20,000 miles in economy, 40,000 miles in first class
Those are some pretty standard redemption costs, so I don’t think anyone is surprised by those numbers. In theory there are also higher level award costs on Virgin America, though availability at the lowest level is so good that I can’t imagine needing to book one.
Virgin America award availability is excellent
This is the most exciting aspect of this development. Virgin America award availability is phenomenal. With most airlines, snagging a first or business class class award seat between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco is really tough. Meanwhile with Virgin America, almost every seat is available.
The same is true for most of their other routes, including between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Availability is even pretty good to Hawaii.
And redeeming 40,000 miles for first class between New York and Hawaii in a comfortable recliner seat is a solid value, in my opinion.
Not only is availability excellent for one passenger, but most flights have multiple award seats. Heck, many Virgin America flights have seven saver level first class award seats (including on transcon routes), even though the cabin has just eight seats.
In theory you should also be able to do a stopover on a one-way Virgin America award, though as of now those don’t seem to be pricing. I suspect that will change soon.
While domestic redemptions ultimately aren’t my favorite use of miles, there are some great values to be had here. Alaska’s redemption rates on Virgin America are in line with what the competition charges. However, unlike the competition, award availability is excellent, including for multiple people in first class, and in most markets, Virgin America’s first class is the best there is.
Are you considering redeeming Alaska miles for travel on Virgin America?