The Incredible Value Of Redeeming Virgin Atlantic Miles For ANA First Class

Earlier I wrote about how Amex is offering a 30% bonus when you transfer Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. In general Flying Club is one of my least favorite airline programs. Their redemption rates for travel on their own flights are high, at least in premium cabins, and have hefty carrier imposed surcharges.

They also have lots of partner redemption opportunities, though for the most part they don’t represent a good deal. Virgin Atlantic’s absolute best partner redemption opportunities are for travel on Japan-based All Nippon Airways.

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How good are Virgin Atlantic’s redemption rates on ANA?

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has a distance based award chart for travel on ANA, and the redemption rates are exceptional. The cost is based on the cumulative distance of roundtrip travel. So for example, you could fly from the US to Japan, and then connect from Japan to elsewhere in Asia. Here are the redemption rates:

Distance Of Return JourneyEconomy ClassBusiness ClassFirst Class
0-600 miles15,00030,00040,000
601-1,600 miles18,00035,00050,000
1,601-2,000 miles21,00040,00055,000
2,001-4,000 miles23,00045,00060,000
4,001-7,000 miles40,00065,00080,000
7,001-9,000 miles45,00070,00090,000
9,001-11,000 miles60,00090,000110,000
11,001-14,000 miles65,00095,000120,000
14,001-18,000 miles70,000110,000140,000
18,001-20,000 miles80,000120,000160,000
20,001-22,000 miles90,000130,000180,000

I’d note that these are the prices as of now, though they’re not even published on Virgin Atlantic’s website anymore, and and are subject to change.

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If you want to change or cancel an ANA award ticket booked with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles there’s a $50 fee to do so, and you’ll need to make the change at least 24 hours before departure.

What ANA award availability does Virgin Atlantic have access to?

While you can’t search or book ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic miles online, Virgin Atlantic should have access to the same award availability as all of ANA’s other partner airlines. So perhaps the easiest website to use for searching availability is United’s, though if you prefer you can use ANA’s website, Aeroplan’s website, etc.

ANA

How do you book ANA awards with Virgin Atlantic miles?

While it’s annoying that you have to call to book these awards, the good news is that Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club agents are the most competent in the industry. They’re actually awesome. You can phone up Flying Club from the US by calling 800.365.9500.

After you’ve determined which flights are available, call up Virgin Atlantic and give them the exact flights and class of service you want. The agent will look up the space, which may take a few minutes (they don’t seem to do these bookings every day… at least until now). 😉

Often they’ll get back to you after a few minutes and say that the space confirmed. However, often they won’t get an immediate response from ANA. Based on my data points so far, I’ve always found that availability matches what other partners show.

For the ticket I put on hold today (just for the purposes of this example), the agent gave me a confirmation number and told me to call back four hours later to see if it confirmed.

I checked the itinerary online a minute after we got off the phone, and it already showed as confirmed. I called Virgin Atlantic up as well, and they said that the flight did in fact come back confirmed within a few minutes. Awesome!

Virgin-ANA

Does Virgin Atlantic impose fuel surcharges on ANA?

Yes, Virgin Atlantic passes on whatever carrier imposed surcharges ANA would have on revenue tickets. The easiest way to look these up is through ITA Matrix — just look up the itinerary there for the cabin you’re traveling in, and expect to pay everything except the base fare (which isn’t much at all).

ANA

As you can see, the fees on the above ticket total ~$174, which is exactly what Virgin Atlantic wanted to charge me for the ticket.

Can Virgin Atlantic hold ANA awards?

They can hold them for up to 48 hours. Actually, more accurately, they request the space, and once they do that, it’s 48 hours before the flights drop out of the record. So you do have up to 48 hours, which should be plenty of time to transfer points.

Is this really such a good deal?

Yes it is. There are frequently transfer bonuses from transferable points currencies to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. For example, they charge 120,000 miles for roundtrip first class from Chicago to Tokyo, which would be 93,000 Membership Rewards points roundtrip under the current promotion. As a point of comparison, here’s how much other programs charge one-way for the same award:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 105,000 miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 90,000 miles
  • United MileagePlus: 110,000 miles

Redeeming just 120,000 miles roundtrip first class to Asia is an incredible value. Of course it’s not for everyone, like if you’re only looking to fly one-way.

Is ANA first class really that good?

Yes it is. ANA first class really is fantastic — the food, the drinks, the service, and the amenities. The service in particular is flawless.

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While their first class suites are nice, they’re not my favorite in the sky, because they’re annoyingly “boxed in” in such a way that you can’t easily talk to the person seated next to you. But it really is a top notch product.

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Bottom line

While I don’t value Virgin Atlantic miles much compared to some other points currencies, they have a couple of really great partner redemption opportunities. The absolute best value of Virgin Atlantic miles is redeeming them for travel on ANA. Their first class redemption rates are among the lowest of any airline, their surcharges are reasonable, and Virgin Atlantic is transfer partners with all the major transferrable points currencies.

Just be sure you know the terms associated with these redemptions, and also that these prices are subject to change.

Comments

  1. One way is not an option, only roundtrips. Adding any segment will also be extra (so around 40-50k) if you’re looking to add another city. Booking this could be a challenge since not all VA agents are familiar with it.

    You’d also have to wait for ANA to confirm after you put awards on hold (similar to booking Hawaiian airline using JetBlue Points), and there are many phantom seats that VA can’t book either. According to Flyertalk, changing your dates could be challenging too.

  2. How can you say the program is distance based? The current chart on the VA website is based on regions with a stopover requiring additional miles. If I am correct, you really need to redo this post

  3. I booked this a few weeks back for IAD-NRT round trip and also on ORD-NRT with return HND-ORD… both tickets were 120k plus $86

    They work on the old distance based chart that has long since disappeared.

  4. According to the website, its not cumulative at all:
    “If a journey requires a connecting flight or stopover to reach the destination, miles are charged for each sector.”

  5. Also, the distance-based award chart in this post is, indeed, no more. It is now region-based and any travel beyond Japan will be priced as two separate awards, altho one booking. If you want to do this (probably still cheaper than most other award options, esp with Amex 30% bonus), you should do as two separate tickets to save on taxes, since flights originating or terminating in Japan have much lower fees than, say, JFK-TYO-HKG as one flight. Same number of miles.

  6. How about Air China First class LHR to PEK for 75k return as best use of Virgin miles?

  7. New at this, so apologies if this is a dumb question, regarding the holding of the ticket, so VS will make the request for you even if you don’t have enough miles to cover it and you have up to 48 hours to get the mileage needed? Thanks.

  8. What other points transfer options are available at good transfer rates?

    With this promotion I’m about 30K points short. Might have to do some Amex offers.

  9. So if I want to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for a R/T flight on ANA to Tokyo from JFK, is it better to transfer to United or Virgin? Can I transfer to Virgin and then book directly through them? Sorry if this is repetitive at all; I’m still new to this. Thx.

  10. @RSB31 – you want to transfer to Virgin and ticket with them to get the 120,000 RT F/C ticket. United is double the miles.

  11. Hi Lucky – I just called Virgin to put an award on hold and they said for partner awards it’s only a hold of 24 hours.

    Thanks for the post though!

  12. When using united as a base does it have to be a saver award to work when calling virigin or does a standard award work?

  13. Appreciate the write up! Went through this process last night, called in and had ORD-NRT RT in F booked within 15 minutes, the MR transfer was instant so the agent could process it immediately. I believe it was ~130 in taxes for the trip.

    One note is that the VS ticketing systems are having trouble with Thailand tax codes currently, so my J segment of NRT-BKK RT is only on hold while they sort it out – they are unable to charge the taxes and thus issue the e-ticket. To be clear based off another user’s comments though, these holds can (and mine was) be placed for two weeks, there’s no 24 hour limit.

  14. I’m fairly new to all this so forgive me if I’m missing something.

    I would like to cash out my 125,000 MR points and close my card now so I don’t get charged the yearly membership fee. Is it a good idea to get the Virgin Atlantic points with the 30% bonus with the intention of using them for an ANA award trip to Asia in the next 2 years? My other options that seem less valuable are to transfer them directly to ANA at 1:1 or add them to my Delta miles.

  15. Brandon – you run the risk of Virgin Atlantic devaluing their ANA award chart. Given how comparatively ‘cheap’ it is, I’d say there’s a very real chance that could happen, although my guess is that it would still remain a competitive rate.

  16. I found availability using the United site for a roundtrip in a couple months. It matched what they had and was confirmed instantly.

    I called the US number with option 4. They do seem to have day time business hours. I kept trying to call late evening (west coast) and no answer. When I called early morning, around 6:00am (Pacific), they answered within 10 mins.

    The cost was 110,000 miles plus $169.

    One thing to note: I had created a virgin Atlantic account. I transferred some SPG points which took about 12 hours, transferred overnight. Amex points transferred instantly.

    However when I tried to book the next morning, the system wouldn’t let them. She told me it was due to the fact that I had created an account less than 24 hours earlier. She put the award on a 24 hour hold and I called the following morning. She was able to ticket it, but manually, at least it worked.

  17. Just to add a “data point,” I just transferred 22,000 AmEx points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. I logged out of my account, logged back in and 28,600 miles were already credited to my account. Took less than seven minutes.

  18. I am searching on United for IAD NRT. Most First class tickets require about 220,000 miles. I can not find any for 110,000. Am I missing something here?

  19. @El

    Only use United to search for ANA award availability at the Saver level. The prices you see are booking with United miles.

    Once you find award availability on United, you need to call Virgin Atlantic and book it there. It’s 110,000 roundtrip from the West Coast plus about $169. I think it’s 120,000 roundtrip from Central and East coast.

  20. FYI Called Virgin a couple times, several flights that currently showed as available on ANA partner sites such as United/Aeroplan did not show available for Virgin.

  21. @jpv

    Use expertflyer.com, make sure you indicate how many rewards you are looking to book on the flight. I used the site to first test it’s accuracy for two rewards, and Virgin confirmed availability, and then booked two first class rewards for different dates. Both times availability was confirmed on the phone. So basically I booked $39,000 (USD) in RT tix (JFK-HND) for $337 and 240,000 miles. Expert Flyer offers a 5 day trial and if you’ve exhausted that just pay for the access, it’s worth it.

  22. I was waiting for the dates I needed next spring to finally open up, and made my reservations last week! A couple of notes: you get different information for different Virgin representatives; the first one I spoke with told me this offer was only valid on JFK – Narita routes, but I eventually booked through Haneda. I also found there was a waiting period for ANA approval once I requested tickets, which could last as long as 24 hours. However, it seems like the longer the wait, the better chance your request will be granted, as I was told ANA rejects quickly. Finally, one Virgin representative implied that it was also possible to book Business Class through them, although the difference in points wasn’t that much. Transferring my points from Chase to Virgin only took seconds, as others have posted. In the end, I booked first class R/T (going to Haneda & returning from Narita) from JFK for 120,000 miles and only $169.06 in taxes. Not a bad deal! Thanks again to Lucky for posting this and to everyone who commented with their feedback. Can’t wait for my trip next spring!

  23. Great thread! I hope it’s still monitored, because I have a question.

    I am in Houston and want to take advantage of IAH to NRT on ANA first class the last week of December 2018. Current award availability shows tickets until the end of the of July on the United site.

    So I have several issues. American Express will end Virgin Atlantic point transfers after November 1st, my flights will not be open for award booking until three months later, at least based on the United website search, the impending Alaska loyalty program merger, risk of point devaluation at any time, etc.

    My question is if either of these options are worth taking:

    Option one, at the end of October, confirm space on latest available first class round trip ANA IAH-NRT award , probably for late September, and hold, transfer 240,000 (two of us) Am Ex MR points to Virgin Atlantic, get tickets, then hope to move back the dates 3 months later, when December 2018 award space should open up.

    Option two, transfer 240,000 American Express MR points to Virgin Atlantic October 31st, assuming there are no adverse changes in the program between now and then, then wait three month until the end of January 2018, for award ticket availability, hopefully still bookable for 120,000 per person round trip, without adverse changes to the award structure between November 2017 and late January 2018.

    Neither options seem like home runs. Can I get any other opinions on those option, or any others,

    Sincerely,
    Mark

  24. Mark:
    Amex is not cancelling Virgin Atlantic point transfers– they’re cancelling Virgin America point transfers due to the Alaska merger. But you can still transfer to Virgin Atlantic. Keep the miles in your Amex accounts as MR as long as possible– only transfer to Virgin when you’ve called them and they’ve already confirmed you on the ANA flights on the dates you need. Transfer is instant.

  25. Can you work the system to book the RT flight but cancel it part way through if you only need a OW? The refund terms talk about getting 100% of the miles back if the flight is cancelled more than 24hrs out. Is that from the start of the trip or the flight specifically?

  26. Seems almost too good to be true. But followed instructions exactly as described. VA operators seemed be very familiar with the program. Issue was finding flights that ANA would confirm through the VA operator. Many of my dates worked only out bound and not inbound. But was able to confirm from LAX to Narita return for 110,000 points and with the AMX deal that only cost me 85,000 points. Unbelievable deal, Wow !!!

  27. HI, are they still partner virgin and ana, i called virgin atlantic, i called virgin atlantic they said they could no longer book ana, (from lax to tokyo) please clarify

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