AMAZING DEAL: Delta presently NOT imposing fuel surcharges for award redemptions on Virgin Australia!

One of Delta’s more exciting airline partners is Virgin Australia, which operates multiple daily flights between Los Angeles and Australia (including Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane). At the beginning the partnership was awesome because Virgin Australia had a ton of business class award space to Australia, which is otherwise one of the toughest markets in the world to get award tickets to.

In May of this year Delta made our lives a bit easier by adding the functionality to search Virgin Australia award space online, allowing us to bypass Delta’s rather incompetent SkyMiles agents. Even so, the partnership wasn’t as exciting as it originally was for a couple of reasons. First of all, award space on Virgin Australia really dried up compared to what it was at the beginning, and at the time I could only find a couple of award seats in business class over the entire year. But equally frustrating is that Delta imposes fuel surcharges for redemptions on Virgin Australia, and they kept creeping up, to the point that a roundtrip award ticket cost $800+ in taxes/fees/fuel surcharges.

As you can see below, for a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Sydney the fuel surcharges (YQ) alone total $780, plus all the other taxes, for a total of roughly $950 (the only thing you don’t pay on an award ticket on Virgin Australia is the base fare, which is the first two totals below).

Anyway, there has never been a better time to redeem for award travel on Virgin Australia using Delta SkyMiles because for whatever reason Delta isn’t presently imposing fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia award redemptions. I’m not sure whether it’s a glitch or a positive change on the part of Delta (I have to assume it’s the former, since we are talking about Delta here), so if you’ve been eying an award ticket on Virgin Australia, now is the time to book it. As you can see below, the total taxes and fees on a Virgin Australia award ticket are under $150 roundtrip at the moment.

Equally great is that award space on Virgin Australia is once again excellent, much better than when I last wrote about it in May. I just snagged a business class award seat for mid-December, which is otherwise unheard of this late in the game. And I even managed to redeem 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night for the Park Hyatt Sydney, which is arguable the best Hyatt property in the world, given that it just reopened after a year-long renovation and rates are typically $900USD+ per night.

Virgin Australia has a fantastic fully flat business class product which looks pretty snazzy, so I’m excited to try it out.

The easiest way to search Virgin Australia award space is probably on To make things easy I always just search as one-ways using their award tool, entering LAX to either Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), or Brisbane (BNE), and doing the same for the return. If there’s saver coach award space it should show up at 100,000 SkyMiles, while if there’s business class award space it should up at 150,000 SkyMiles.

Once you find the flights you want just search them at the same time (if it’s a roundtrip just use the “roundtrip” function, or if you want to fly into one city and out of another in Australia use the “multi-city” function). It should price automatically and easily be bookable online.

I should also mention that Delta lets you route from the US to Australia via Asia, so if you’d like you can fly China Southern in one direction on their new Airbus 380 via Guangzhou, or Korean Air on their Airbus 380 via Seoul Incheon. However, those awards would need to be booked by phone. For this trip I decided to fly Virgin Australia roundtrip, as I plan on trying those two products in the near future.

Now I know some people are going to slam me for posting this. Let me say this upfront — I try to use discretion with what I post. To that end, I’ve been a bit disappointed with “tricks” some fellow bloggers have revealed over the past couple of weeks, since I think revealing them did more harm than good, though at times we all screw up (and I’m definitely included there). The way I decide on which “deals” to share is based on what I think will bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. In this case I suspect Delta accidentally isn’t adding fuel surcharges to Virgin Australia award tickets, and it will be fixed in the next few days one way or another. I first noticed the lack of fuel surcharges last night while booking an award to Australia for a client, and now it’s a Saturday night, so I suspect this likely won’t be fixed till Monday (though I certainly could be wrong).

If this was a trick that has been around for ages and I knew of dozens of people that used it without issue, I probably wouldn’t blog about it, because I don’t think that’s fair to that group of people, as it may have gone unnoticed for months to come. However in this case I’m using my best discretion and believe that the most people will benefit by this being shared rather than keeping it secret. Or who knows, maybe it’s not a secret and an actual policy change on the part of Delta — it’s anyone’s guess!

Anyway, if anyone has any questions, just let me know! Hopefully this allows some of you to go “down under.”


  1. @ James — You can also sign up for a Virgin Australia Velocity Rewards account and check for their lowest priced awards there. You can search a few days at a time there.

  2. @Lucky
    Just stayed at Park Hyatt Sydney for 4 nights with family using 2 free nights from CC sign up and 2 points nights (from ultimate rewards). Great location for Opera House and ferries. Breakfast was ok, not on par with Asian counterparts. Service good. Thursday night we sipped champagne on our balcony watching the Qantas/Emirates announcement launch party in the side conference room downstairs (FA’s from both airlines were in uniforms handing out goody bags for those attending). Now at Hilton Fiji resort in 2 bedroom penthouse villa thanks to diamond status (surpass spend). Thanks for the guidance and inspiration!

  3. @ Keith — Would love to! Will make a post closer to the date.

    @ AdamRx — Sounds great, hope you’re enjoying Fiji (it’s on my list of places to visit)! Safe travels!

  4. @Lucky
    Air Pacific (will be renaming as Fiji Airways) is receiving their new A330’s and new business class in March 2013. Maybe you can be one of the first to review? We settled for coach on the 747’s, don’t feel like current biz is worth the extra points.

  5. @Lucky – if you recently booked VA LAX -SYD biz tickets like I did, and you were also crazy enough to pay the insane fuel surcharges also like I did ;)…you can get refunded the difference! I called Delta yesterday when I heard about this. It may not even be a glitch because the rep went through his manager who went to IT support. 1/2 an hour later, they refunded me over $1,500 for my two tickets. I asked him if this was something Delta would be fixing or if it was a glitch. The rep said probably not since they refunded me and they aren’t planning on fixing it at the moment.

  6. Couldn’t agree more and thank you for being honest and discreet about posts. Its sad to see people sometimes not just pointing to but bragging about abusing loopholes.

    “Now I know some people are going to slam me for posting this. Let me say this upfront — I try to use discretion with what I post. To that end, I’ve been a bit disappointed with “tricks” some fellow bloggers have revealed over the past couple of weeks, since I think revealing them did more harm than good, though at times we all screw up (and I’m definitely included there).”

  7. @ Lantean — Hah, that’s why I just booked it out of LAX. Domestic award space at the saver level is virtually non-existent.

  8. @Lucky/Lantean – for domestic award availability, don’t forget about Alaska Air (depending on where your originating from) as I think they fly to LAX.

  9. Ok, last question…. Any easy way to go about searching Biz availability on Korean Air from LAX to Seoul and then onto Sydney (or whatever city they fly into)? Just want to have all my ducks in a row when calling the Delta reps. Thanks again!

  10. @Lantean: EWR-SEA-LAX-SYD is within the MPM. I don’t know that the AS flight timings line up with the LAX-SYD flight, but it would technically work out.

    @Points loverrrr: Nope. The only way to check KE award inventory that’s available to DL is to call DL. Also be sure you’ve checked your dates against the blackout dates in advance to save yourself problems. I’ve never gotten the “Whodat?” response that some have reported getting when asking for partners, but I did have an agent claim that the A380 LAX-ICN had no space only to call back three minutes later and have another agent confirm the space for me. Definitely call and feed them flights that you want the inventory checked on, as they can be really inept at figuring out what’s available otherwise. Note that if not flying out of a KE gateway city, you may have issues getting the award via ICN to price correctly. I’d start a booking with some DL segment on hold before calling to add the KE flights and then try using the redeem button online once the KE segments are added. That’s how I got my OMA-SLC-LAX-ICN-AKL//HKG-PVG-NRT-ATL-OMA ticket to price for 135K. Now just doing HKG-NRT-ATL-OMA for the return and had a big battle keeping the 135K pricing.

  11. If domestic saver availability is virtually non-existent then why are they still allowed to advertise it? Which department or agency regulates frequent flier programs?

  12. @Lucky
    All they have announced is it will rotate into their main long distance routes: Auckland, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Sydney

  13. Lucky, same here if you’re up for meeting up for a diet coke and lime here in SYD!

    VA Business is pretty good, though the only thing I don’t like is the 2-3-2 layout. Row 5 mini cabin if you can get it! Be warned of the cocktail… its particularly potent.

  14. Lucky, if you’re going to share info, just share it. If not, then don’t … but also just stop posting about every possible purported benefit associated with a program that just happens to have an associated current credit card offer for which you get a commision via a referral link.

    If I’m worthy enough to receive info on some, then I’m worthy to receive all.

  15. I noticed this last week. My wife was in SYD on business and wants to return on vacation with me so I was looking at random dates in Feb and March with execllent availabilty @$150 on all three routes from LA. This sure beats the $896 she just paid!
    BTW, she said their seats are pretty hard but the beds are very comfortable…
    Also, couldnt get her to LAX on Delta coach or business awards………..

  16. Ben,

    I need to be in Australia early next Sept (2013); could I make a reservation now (say Aug 2013), and then change it later (assuming there is space in Sept)? The intent would be to take advantage of this now – I assume a change fee of $150/pax would apply if this scenario was even possible?


  17. I’m pretty new to this. While I am able to find an outbound flight on VA but I can’t seem to get Delta’s website to display any return flight. Any other option?

  18. @Jana – Are you serious? Any particular reason you couldn’t just cancel and rebook? Even a $150 redeposit fee would have netted you $600 or so. But no, go ahead and draw a LOT of attention to it in order to save $750 instead of $600. Screw everyone else who might have benefited from it.

    This type of behavior is exactly why Lucky gets flak for posting these deals. People who either have no common sense or people who are utterly selfish and inconsiderate ruin them.

  19. Ron, why do you read Lucky’s blog then? Is it just to bitch? Let’s face it, you are “lazy” like the rest of us and don’t want to peruse every imaginable FT thread to do the work yourself. Lucky’s blog is informative and highlights the best/worse of FF programs for a particular audience. He provides good information and is trying to make a buck while doing what he enjoys. What the heck is wrong with that? The rest of us can live with it, why can’t you?

    You’re like the guy who wants the full version of some software program, but is unwilling to pay for it and then bitches that the free version comes with advertisement! Is anyone forcing you to use the CC link? I’m tired of these posts whining about this.

  20. Lucky, is it possible to build in a stopover or OJ other than via the new CSN routing using Skymiles for VA redemption?

  21. @ Alex @ Mike — Sounds like a plan!

    @ Simon — If you make a change the itinerary would be repriced, meaning if they’re charging fuel surcharges at the time you make the change you’d have to pay them. So you have nothing to gain by doing that.

    @ Alan Mel — Chances are there’s just not any availability. What time of year are you looking at?

    @ Stephan — You should be able to have a stopover in Seoul Incheon as well. Other than that I don’t know of any published routings that would be valid, so I doubt it.

  22. @ Jason74 — Delta doesn’t offer a discount for one-ways over roundtrips, so you’d still pay 150,000 miles if you just booked a one-way in business class. That being said, if you just add a “dummy” booking for the return in coach it would take the average of the costs, so lower it to 125,000 miles.

  23. I have an PHX to SYD itinerary on hold for 150k, awaiting transfer of MR points to my delta account. Strangely, it’s all DL on the return. But if I try to make it DL all the way, it jumps to 260K. Can I call up Delta and add SYD to CNS and back to SYD to the itinerary? There are flight times that work and there is “saver” availability on the VA website. I’d like to spend a few days there too.

  24. @Stacey – wow, really?! Okay, relax…I was following the unwritten rules. Apparently I need to be more clear about what happened before people get up in arms, instead of just stating my result. Lesson learned. I called to re-book my flights (as I read someone did this on flyertalk), had him pull up my new dates, and the rep noticed the no YQ charges and went to a supervisor (of course I get the one and only sharp rep). When I asked him what the deal was, he said the fuel surcharges were gone and they don’t plan to fix it. I asked him for a refund at that point and told him I would call back if I wanted to go through with the changed dates. I figured it was not a big deal by then since it sounded like it was NOT a glitch and they don’t plan to change it. That was my point of sharing what happened…and if I had thought I somehow ruined it for everyone, I would be hiding out instead of sharing…b/c man, you guys can get angry! 🙂

  25. Stephan,

    Wow! You don’t know me or anything about me, yet call me lazy and a complainer. While you may be right, how can you deduce this from one blog post?

    I read this blog, other blogs, and look at other sites for information. Actually, I DO appreciate Ben’s efforts and that of other bloggers in helping make me a more informed consumer. Furthermore, I DO appreciate FT and Milepoint posters who impart information and knowledge.

    Yet, I resent the fact that some in the “community” think that it’s OK for some knowledge to be imparted but that some should be kept secret. I just think people should be consistent. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic.

    Furthermore, I don’t begrudge ANY blogger any profit that they may earn from their efforts, just as I hope that no one begrudges my income from my professional efforts. Yet, if I’m deemed worthy to receive information that might lead me to take commission-producing action, I’d like to think that I’m worthy to receive other valuable information, as well.

  26. @ Ron — Regarding your statement “Yet, I resent the fact that some in the “community” think that it’s OK for some knowledge to be imparted but that some should be kept secret. I just think people should be consistent. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic.”

    So you don’t think any discretion should be used when it comes to sharing tricks? I don’t think my standard is unreasonable — if people have been using a “trick” for years and sharing it would ruin the opportunity overnight, it’s not in the overall best interest to share it, in my opinion. If sharing the trick doesn’t ruin it for those already using it, I’ll share it every time. And for a trick that has only been around for a short time, I’ll gladly share it if I think doing so would maximize the amount of use that could be had from it.

  27. @Lucky,

    I appreciate you reply and your comments. Thank you.

    I guess I just don’t appreciate being made to feel like a second class citizen. Perhaps most others don’t see it this way.

    I don’t know how you can predict what shared information will or will not result in the demise of any particular offer, but so be it.

  28. @Buddy M.: Yes, PHX-LAX-SYD-CNS fits the MPM, so you could have a stopover in SYD one direction or the other and include the flights between SYD and CNS. You might consider BNE instead of SYD on the direction where you’re not spending time in SYD, as doing the connection between international and domestic in BNE should be easier.

    @lucky, Jason74: To get a pseudo one-way even cheaper, use an open jaw and book the dummy return from Asia in coach rather than Australia.

  29. @Ron – I appreciate your point of view with respect to those who would deny others the opportunity to benefit from a deal. There have been plenty of recent posts from certain hypocritical people who feel that they are entitled to “inside” knowledge, while the rest of the unwashed masses are not. Bloggers including Lucky have a fine line to toe given the number of folks who blame him and others for “killing” deals.

    My objection was not about this, but your original comment about the CC links and the implication that blogs should not discuss programs that they link to. Most of us get their miles from CC bonuses so I don’t see what the issue is.

  30. @ Ron — Trust me, I’m the last person that wants to create “classes.” But you also have to understand we all get out information from somewhere. As a blogger people are hesitant to share certain deals with me out of fear of me sharing, so often deals are shared with me under the assumption that I won’t blog about them. Obviously it wouldn’t be fair to break the trust of those people, and I’d rather be informed when there’s a deal so I can hopefully share it rather than just not know at all.

    I share every deal I can if I believe it to be in the best interest of the community at large. I think there’s reasonable judgment that can be used in deciding when a deal is worth sharing or not. For example, if I’m told by someone that there has been a mistake fare for the past three years between a certain city pair, I sure don’t think it’s fair to publish it, since it would undoubtedly be pulled within hours. If, on the other hand, Singapore is switching their reservations systems and opening up all the first class award availability for a 48 hour period, I’ll share it as far as I possibly can.

  31. @Lucky

    you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone… just keep doing what you’re doing. i find your blog to be the most detailed and helpful. i like that i can always ask you one of my idiotic questions and you happily answer…
    i also use your links when i apply for cards!
    keep up the good job.


  32. Hey Lucky – I was able to place an itinerary on-hold flying into SYD and then out of MEL about 10 days later. With the Open Jaw and Stopover rules, I should be able to tack on the SYD-MEL flight as well, shouldn’t I?

    Is there a way to find low-level Award availability on V Austrailia between those cities? wouldn’t let me do it. I could see low availability if I was connecting through SYD on the way to MEL practically every day. I was going to call Delta and see if they could add that flight.

    Any thoughts?


  33. @ Lantean — Thanks!

    @ Bill N — You sure should be able to, since you’d just be converting the open jaw into a stopover (though you’re allowed a stopover AND an open jaw if you wanted anyway). You just have to call to add it. You can search for low space on the Virgin Australia website, though it’s readily available.

  34. Lucky – Thank you for the quick reply. The inbound flight I am looking are for the first week of January, 2013. Somehow delta’s website didn’t return anything at all.

  35. @ Alan Mel — I suspect this is because the first week of January is one of the toughest weeks for award space to/from Australia, so Virgin Australia probably doesn’t have any space.

  36. Lucky-Thanks again. That explains. I was naive enough to expect Delta would give its customers a more user friendly message 😉

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