My Experience Redeeming Virgin America Points For Virgin Australia Business Class

The Virgin America Elevate program is being discontinued at the end of 2017, just a bit over a year after Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed. On one hand I’m sad to see a frequent flyer program be eliminated, though at the same time I’m happy that Alaska Mileage Plan is the surviving program, given that it’s arguably the best frequent flyer program in the US (and one of the only ones that isn’t revenue based).

Virgin-Elevate

However, there are a couple of sweet spot award redemptions with Virgin America’s Elevate program, and one of those is for travel in Virgin Australia business class between Australia and the US. You can fly for just 45,000 points one-way, or 80,000 points roundtrip (do keep in mind that Virgin America Elevate points are a bit more valuable than other airline miles, so the prices are great).

Elevate-Virgin-Australia

I’m in Sydney at the moment, and a while back asked you guys for thoughts on how I should fly back to the US. At the time I was trying to decide between Virgin Australia business class and a routing through Asia, which would have involved at least a couple of airlines. Well, I decided to fly Virgin Australia given that this redemption opportunity is going away soon, and figured I’d report back on my redemption experience, given that this was my first time redeeming Virgin America points.

How I acquired Virgin America Elevate points

I’ve only taken a couple of Virgin America flights in my life, so I didn’t earn most of my Virgin America points through flying. Instead I earned them by converting Starpoints into Elevate points. This could be done at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. Unfortunately the two programs discontinued their partnership as of January 2017, so this transfer opportunity is no longer possible.

Anyway:

Finding Virgin Australia award space

Virgin Australia seems to open up business class award space to partner airlines within a week of departure, though more often than not, only within 3-4 days of departure. Virgin America doesn’t show Virgin Australia award space on their website, so there are two ways to search. Either you can search space on Delta’s website, or you can use ExpertFlyer, which even lets you set alerts.

Virgin-Australia-Award

So I set availability alerts for Virgin Australia business class, and sure enough, a few days out seats opened up on the flight I was looking at.

The actual booking process

You can’t redeem Virgin America points for travel on Virgin Australia online, so you have to call. I was dreading this at first, since I hate the phone. However, this was the fastest award booking I’ve ever made over the phone. It was almost weird.

First I waited on hold for about six minutes, but then it took less than five minutes from the time the agent picked up till when I was ticketed.

I told her the date and class of service I was looking at. She asked me to confirm my Elevate account information, and then asked what credit card I wanted to use to pay the taxes. She didn’t even confirm that I was the person traveling. The whole thing took just a few minutes, which is pretty awesome. It’s nice to see that the Virgin America Elevate reps are competent.

Virgin-Australia-New-Business-Class-7

Bottom line

I’m looking forward to trying Virgin Australia’s new business class, and in particular to do so while this redemption opportunity is still available, given that it’s going away soon. 45,000 Elevate points (the equivalent of 36,000 Starpoints) for a one-way business class ticket from Australia to the US is tough to beat.

Comments

  1. Since Virgin America is dead, what’s the best way to redeem for this flight in the future?

  2. It’s nuts that Virgin Australia’s Velocity FFP has bugger all business seats to the USA, even a YEAR OUT! I’m a VA Platinum, and feel the airline doesn’t play fair with redemptions or upgrades for its loyal flyers, while dishing up to partner programmes like Lucky says.

  3. So going forward would it make sense to transfer spg points to virgin Australia in hopes of availability?

  4. Not all of them are competent. I have had nightmares getting them to find space that was open to all other airlines. I always give the fare class and the specific date/flight.

  5. I really hope you have a great flight, don’t want my favourite blogger hating on my favourite airline!

  6. Apart from Amex points, is there any other way to top off a virgin america elevate account?

  7. Alaska Visa Card, 30,000 miles sign up bonus, transfer to Virgin for 23,707 elevate points.

  8. So you’re writing about a transfer method that’s dead and a redemption method soon to be dead. Wow that’s really either very useful or very narcissistic!

  9. Lucky, 45K VX points for a one way VA redemption from Australia to LAX, Great Redemption. I’m going to also try and fit one in before 2018, if possible. To bad inventory on VA isn’t better out into 2018. I would love to be able to do 90K round trip.

    @JustSaying VA isn’t going away, just VX elevate, and since this is the best possible redemption for VX points during the next 6 months the post is appropriate and timely. This hobby is always changing and for “a limited time only”.

  10. Is anyone aware of a way to claim Virgin Australia (Velocity) miles on past flights. Had several flights with them a couple months back during a vacation in Australia, but as far as I can tell you can not even create a Velocity account unless you are an Australia or NZ resident. I do have an Elevate account, but can’t seem to find any information about claiming Virgin Australia points as an American Citizen.

    Thanks!

  11. Just like Ryan, I think you got extremely lucky here. Three times I have tried to redeem Virgin America on partners, twice on Virgin Australia flights. All three times it was a multi-day ordeal with many agents flat out stating that “Sir, this is Virgin America. If you want to fly Virgib Australia, you need to contact them”.

    Bottom line – there are two separate deparments that handle reservations. Partner reservations are handled by “Burn desk”. Even if you go to partner awards via the phone system, you can still be dropped onto the “normal” rep who usually wants to take down your name and then email it over to the Burn desk (they cannot transfer calls) and they are supposed to contact you (never have I received a call back). So it is essentially a phone system lottery on where you get routed. Even at the Burn desk some agents are competent while others don’t seem to be able to find availability even after you spoon feed them everything.

    There are some really nice sweet spots for doing this redemption around the pacific, not just to US, but it also (usually) comes with a giant pain in the behind.

  12. “So you’re writing about a transfer method that’s dead and a redemption method soon to be dead. Wow that’s really either very useful or very narcissistic!”

    Not only that, he was looking for just ONE seat, and only found space a few days ahead of the actual flight – that’s the only time you can find these seats. And he found a unicorn in terms of the actual booking experience (contrary to what everyone else I’ve ever heard from seems to have experienced).

    This is a dishonest. Period.

    How many people – with an actual job and a life – care about being able to book such a flight with those restrictions? Nobody.

    This is just dishonest.

  13. @ AAPlat, you can only transfer from Virgin America to Elevate to Alaska Mileage Plan. not the other way around.

  14. @Bryan you would need to retro claim them through VX Elevate – not sure on their process, but surely they have a contact center or an online form? No point earning velocity points if you live in the USA anyway as the only transfer partner they have is KrisFlyer. Velocity only allow AUS/NZ Residents to join.

  15. Now this is a review I’m excited about! Flying VA business in July and looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  16. Im looking forward to the Etihad 787 review and this virgin Australia review more than the Etihad Residence review. Sorry not sorry 😉

  17. @ Julius

    You are surprised that it’s easier to redeem Elevate points compared with Velocity? Shouldn’t be, it’s all about this appalling airline’s return: they derive a direct benefit through Lucky’s ticket, while you are just an unfounded liability on their books. The longer they can string along their OZ members, the better. Qantas is only marginally better.

  18. @JJ you guys are just getting silly. There are quite a few redemptions that are only available close to the date of the flight. Welcome to the miles and points game. And sorry if his experience doesn’t fit your expectation of what it should be. That definitely invalidates the experience Lucky had….

  19. @Eric The real question one needs to ask is for what purpose is this experience being shared? It seems some of the readers seem to never truly redeem anything or go anywhere so they live vicariously thru Lucky and itt matters none that the story is a one off. Then there are the others (I would argue the vast majority) that are reading the story hoping to pick up ideas that will enable our dream trips. For those folks, this story is not just useless but it is a waste of our time and not recognizing that shows a callous disregard for readers. But we come back because every once in a while a truly great idea is shared. It does get painful waiting for those ideas.

  20. Ah I thought you would have taken advantage of the Amex Membership Rewards promotion back in Feb 2016 giving a 50% transfer bonus to Virgin America Elevate. I learned about it through your blog and still think it’s a great deal! I even think it’s a better deal than the SPG transfer. Oh and yes…. I took advantage of that JetBlue promo later that year too.
    I’m looking forward to reading your review on this but please please please I hope your review won’t be underwhelming due to your previous flight 😉
    I still have a chunk of VA miles sitting in my account and hope to utilize them for a r/t flight LAX-SYD later this year.

  21. @justsaying trust me there are plenty of people on points that will take time off and only book travel a couple days in advance as they have a list of possible destinations and know one of those will have award availability. Not everyone has the same travel patterns or methods don’t generalize what you do as everyone redeems points differently. Please tell me where else you can redeem points to Australia onI would say confidently the best business class product to Australia and on top of that it’s half the cost of pretty much every other program. This is a great product and I’m patiently waiting for his review. Also keep in mind that some people actually pay for business class with cash and this is useful for them to understand the best way to travel in biz to Australia. Get over yourself and recognize you don’t play the points game the same as everyone else

  22. Someone please send out your Aussie address so we can sign up for velocity or should I just use the hotels address?

  23. @JustSaying What @Jack said. Also, just because you can’t advantage of this doesn’t mean others can’t. There are still a lot of people with Virgin America points trying to figure out how to make the best use of them. Not every story needs to apply to you. And a “callous disregard for readers?” That is a little dramatic.

    Now that you know this redemption does not apply to you you can easily ignore the rest of the posts on it and look for the next opportunity to be posted that you can partake in. But a lot of other people will get useful information out of the posts.

  24. @Eric@Jack. Worthless defense of wasteful post. How long you been on the payroll? Narcissism is as narcissism does.

  25. @JustSaying Worthless defense? I’m so sorry I have no affiliation with the website I can show you a bunch of last minute travel I’ve booked though if you would like to see. If you like I can walk you through a step by step of how to do it if that would be easier for you to understand because it doesn’t seem to be getting through to you. Not everyone relies on points, some people’s company pays for biz travel and they even pay for biz class themselves I can show you those examples too. You can live in a fantasy land, but it seems some people just know how to play the points game better. I don’t know where the narcicism comment came from either and am not sure you understand what it means as your comment makes zero sense.

  26. Wow just finished reading the other comments and there seems to be a lot of new readers! I’m not sure how this article is a waste of time since Lucky was explaining to us his experience of redeeming a Virgin America award. I found this blog article helpful since I plan to redeem my VX points later this year for a trip to Oz.

  27. In regards to the concerns over having to book certain awards at the last minute, just book an acceptable award in a program that has low cancellation fees (perhaps Korean Air). As your travel date approaches, see if the award you truly want is available (such as Virgin Australia business class). If it is available, then great, cancel your backup award. If it isn’t available, then you still get to travel without risk of not having a flight.

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