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.
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 Journey||Economy Class||Business Class||First Class|
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.