Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: A Gem Hiding In Plain Sight

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If there’s one program that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, it just might be Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Perhaps this is because of the steep surcharges added to its own award flights, or the taxes and fees imposed when flying out of London, or maybe it’s because Virgin Atlantic is not a member of a major airline alliance.

Each is understandable, but it shouldn’t stop us from getting a great redemption when we can.

As a transfer partner of all 4 flexible points currencies — Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou, and SPG, it’s much easier to earn Flying Club miles than those of many other airlines. There’s even a co-branded Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard that earns Flying Club miles directly.

Many cards can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic

To help get you started, I’ll share a few ways to use Flying Club miles that I think you should consider.

6 great Flying Club redemptions

Before we dive in, it’s important to remember that Virgin Atlantic has an award chart for its own flights and different award charts for each of its partners, rather than a consolidated partner award chart like you’ll find with many programs.

Some of these charts are distance-based, some provide redemption rates for specific cities, and others use a region-based chart. Additionally, some partners require round-trip awards while others allow one-way tickets. Additionally, connecting flights will increase the mileage requirement.

Finally, you can call Virgin Atlantic to hold an award booking for 48 hours while you transfer points to your account.

Now, let’s get into it.

Delta transcontinental flights

Delta One 767

In a move that reminded me of Delta’s nonsense, Virgin Atlantic removed its full award chart for flights on Delta. Now, all you will find on their website is the miles required to fly between the U.S. and the U.K.

So, while you won’t see this option on their Delta award chart, you can still book one-way transcontinental Delta flights for 12,500 miles in economy and 22,500 miles in business class. Here is a copy of the full award chart that used to be available on the site:

Virgin Atlantic Delta Award Chart

While it’s not easy to find business class award space on Delta’s premium transcontinental routes, such as New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX), Virgin offers a much better way to book than with Delta’s SkyMiles program. If you can find space on this route, you’ll fly across the country with a lie-flat seat with direct aisle access on a Boeing 767.

When you’re ready to search for award space, you can do so on Virgin Atlantic’s site. Once there, you might notice that if you search for a flight between New York and Los Angeles, the destination won’t populate and you’ll see a “no matches found” message. Annoying but there’s a simple way around this.

If you click the teardrop-looking pin in the destination field, you’ll see a drop-down that lets you sort airports by country/region, US & Canada, or alphabetically. Simply select US & Canada, then California, then LAX, and you will be able to run your search.

Virgin Atlantic Search Trick For Delta

Make sure you select “Pay with miles” below the calendar. I also recommend choosing to show flights within 5 weeks to get an idea if there is any award space near your ideal travel date.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) first class to Tokyo

ANA First Class

One of my favorite ways to use Flying Club miles is to book ANA first class. From LAX and San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo, you can book a round-trip first class award for 110,000 miles, while awards from the central and eastern U.S. can be booked for 120,000 miles. If you book one of these awards, a round-trip booking is required.

You can also get respectable redemptions in economy and business class from the West Coast. While you’ll find better redemptions rates in those cabins with ANA Mileage Club, it partners with 2 flexible points programs — Membership Rewards and SPG — while Flying Club partners with 4 of the flexible points programs. So, Virgin Atlantic might not be the cheapest, but the ease of earning the necessary miles still makes it a solid option.

ANA Mileage Club has low, regular and high season award prices.

ANA Mileage Club Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Economy 40K/50K/55K (low/regular/high) 60K/65K (west/central & east)
Business 75K/85K/90K (low/regular/high) 90K/95K (west/central & east)

The taxes and fees are roughly $260 for the round-trip booking, which isn’t bad for ANA first class across the Pacific.

To find award space, you can use United’s website to search, then call Virgin Atlantic to book. The agents I’ve spoken with have been some of the best in the industry.

Air New Zealand between Los Angeles and Auckland

Air New Zealand 777

Another Star Alliance airline that can be booked with Flying Club is Air New Zealand. In fact, you won’t find a better way to book a non-stop business class award between Auckland (AKL) and LAX. Even the economy rates are competitive with other other programs.

One-way business class awards will cost you 62,500 miles while economy will run you 40,000 miles. I don’t know about you, but that business class option sounds amazing. To top it off, taxes and fees are only about $55 for a one-way award.

Even if you need a positioning flight to or from LAX, Flying Club could be a great option when you consider that United requires 90,000 miles, while Aeroplan and LifeMiles each require 80,000 miles.

This award will get even better when Air New Zealand launches a flight to Chicago (ORD), which will make it easier for those of us on the Eastern half of the US to book shorter positioning flights.

As with awards on ANA, you can search on United and then call Virgin Atlantic to book.

Air China first class from London to Beijing

With taxes and fees north of $700, this is one of the awards I alluded to that will cost a nice chunk of change, but this one just might be worth it. You can book a round-trip first class trip between London (LHR) and Beijing (PEK) on Air China in first class for 75,000 Flying Club miles while business class would require 63,000 miles.

You can book a one-way award for half the round-trip mileage cost, but you will pay much more than half of the taxes and fees when flying out of the UK.

You could fly British Airways instead of Air China, but it would require 115,000 JAL Mileage Bank miles, which can only easily be acquired via SPG transfers. British Airways would require 170,000 Avios. Even your other options for booking Air China pale in comparison, with United MileagePlus requiring 160,000 miles.

Regardless of whether you book an award flight on Air China or British Airways, the taxes and fees will be high so you might as well book with as few points as possible.

You can find award space on United (notice a pattern?) and call Virgin Atlantic to book.

Fly to Australia with Delta or Virgin Australia

A question I receive almost weekly is how to book awards to Australia without connecting in Asia. That’s not always easy, especially if you want to fly business class. Qantas occasionally dumps some award space, but it gets snatched up quickly. Virgin Australia often releases space closer to departure, but it’s not as consistent as it used to be.

Economy, however, is another ballgame, and I’ve actually found quite a bit of economy space, especially when booking well in advance. With Flying Club, you can book economy flights on Delta out of LAX for 50,000 miles or on Virgin Australia for 47,000 miles. Business class awards will cost 75,000 miles on Delta and 94,000 on Virgin Australia.

Using 75,000 miles on Delta is a particularly nice redemption but you’ll often have to book quite close to departure. In fact, when writing this, I saw two dates with award space within 30 days of departure and that was it.

As always, the downside is that connections will require more miles. However, the taxes and fees are more than reasonable at roughly $30 for a one-way from LAX.

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy from the East Coast to London

While the taxes and fees on a round-trip premium economy booking are steep, the cash component of a one-way award from Boston (BOS), Newark (EWR), JFK or Washington Dulles (IAD) is reasonable at just under $180. And you’ll pay just 17,500 miles for the one-way during standard season, or 27,500 over peak dates.

For those looking for more comfort than an economy seat but to not drop over $500 on taxes and fees for a flight that’s less than 7 hours, premium economy on Virgin Atlantic is a happy medium.

Refreshingly, this award you can search and book online with Virgin Atlantic.

Watch for transfer bonuses

Occasionally, Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points will run transfer promotions to Virgin Atlantic, with bonuses as high as 30%. These are the perfect time to transfer points if you are going to book an award with Flying Club miles.

In fact, I took advantage of Amex’s 30% promotion last fall to book ANA first class from IAD to Tokyo Narita (NRT). As mentioned above, the award requires 120,000 Flying Club miles but I only needed to transfer 93,000 Membership Rewards.

I was going to visit my brother in Japan anyway, but this will make the trip that little bit sweeter.

Bottom line

It’s easy to forget about Virgin Atlantic Flying Club when thinking about booking an award. While many programs are part of an alliance and have simple distance-based or region-based award charts, Flying Club has a mix of everything. As a result, it takes a bit more effort on our part but, if you put in that effort, there’s potential for outsized value.

On top of that, Virgin Atlantic’s partnerships with the 4 flexible points programs make getting the miles you need much easier than with many airline programs.

The next time you’re booking a flight to Tokyo or a transcontinental flight across the states, I’d strongly consider booking with Flying Club miles.

What’s your favorite way to book with Flying Club miles?

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Comments

  1. @Steve- I flew them twice; Aeroplan miles for LA to London and Flying Club to AKL. Hard to find but not impossible. Good luck!

  2. I just flew F on ANA from NRT to IAD too! I have to say, though, I think business on ANA is a better value proposition (at least when booking with cash, I suppose 25,000 VS miles extra roundtrip to upgrade to First makes sense, though). Although the F seat is better if you can snag a business window seat which is closer to the window than the aisle that is very comparable. Also, I found the service and food to be excellent in both.

  3. I’ve been intrigued with IAD-Dakar on SAA in C for 50,000 r/t.

    But I have no idea what to anticipate in terms of fees?

    Lucky?

    Anyone else?

  4. LH M&M LAX-AKL should be only 62k booked as one way. Quoting $30 for the UA flights but for NZ the calculations may be different (as in a rip off).

    Also, you can go twice as far (ie EWR-LAX-AKL-PER) for the same price.

  5. @jfhscott

    Just booked an IAD-Dakar rt, and there were no surcharges–just taxes that matched whatever Matrix was showing for the itinerary. Note that the airport just moved and its code changed: it’s now DSS. However, at least some of Virgin’s systems are not updated with the new codes, and I had to do a lot of handholding to make sure they were searching DSS and not DKR.

    The SA awards are obviously of more limited use, but are such an insanely good deal.

  6. Didn’t they have distance based ANA award chart? Now looks like all you can book is individual RT segments between Japan and another destination, but no chart for between other regions. To get from USA to SE Asian would then be two separate awards?

  7. @spencer are you seeing much availability on transcon Delta. After Lucky broke the system last year with the Delta One redemptions, I haven’t found a single seat since…

  8. Awesome! Was going to transfer 110K UR to United for an ANA F award one way (and figure the return later), but this works out a lot better!

  9. This is one of those articles that gets you really excited while reading it, then dumps you in despair when you try to use what you just read. Searched for JFK-LAX, beginning in Sept thru end of booking in Feb for 2 people. Came up with zero availability in any class of service. And this option was the very first one mentioned in the post. Based on the comments Air NZ would be equally impossible. I did however find great availability on those $500 pp JFK-LHR flights. 😉

    This is a very well written article, clearly explaining miles required, and where/how to book. So far, so good. But I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading it, as I gave false me hopes that just didn’t pan out. 🙁

  10. @Mitch – Taxes/fees on a one-way DL transcon will be negligible. Problem is finding biz award space these days.

    @Robert Hanson – Glad you enjoyed it. I hear you on JFK-LAX DL J. Regarding, NZ J I saw space in December close to departure and saw space for late April when searching in March.

  11. Great that you can search online for most of the redemptions I’m interested in….just such a ball-ache using United. It was so slow, clunky & painful only allowing one day at a time to be searched I gave up after 2 date requests.

  12. On ANA own website a round-trip award ticket from Chicago to Tokyo in F is 150,000 ANA miles. Virgin Atlantic charges 120,000 for the same – how could it be? What’s the catch?

  13. There’s a cutie for me that’s not covered. DL’s “direct” flight 166 SEA-NRT-SIN can be had for 60k Flying Club in J oneway. It’s only a 763 though.

  14. Saw several days in May & June on the LAX/AKL Air NZ flights with business availability for 2 people. Very surprising.

  15. jfhscott:
    Had no problem booking IAD-DSS for 2, 35k miles + $17.60/p
    and DSS-IAD twice for 2, 25k miles + $128.41/p

  16. Can you book first one way and business return on ANA using Virgin Atlantic? When is the best time to search, far out or close in? Does ANA give any preference to its own members on their flights?

  17. Used Flying Club to book HKG-LHR on VS Upper Class for 57.5k + $44. Maybe not amazing but straight forward and a decent value. (No CX space on date I needed)

  18. A standard economy redemption could also be a gem, 10k VS + $148 for NYC-LHR is a better value than the 30k points most other programs charge.

    Especially when the cash rate is $1700 last minute, like i had on my booking a few weeks ago, that one worked out to a value of 15ccp, hard to beat.

  19. Spencer this a great post that I enjoyed reading and refreshed up on some of these great values so thanks for the refresher. I read the whole thing and thought it was Ben who wrote it until I saw your name. Great one! Looking forward to more!

  20. Very good post, but also very similar to one I’ve read elsewhere. Also surprised with no mention of us- Senegal

  21. I just got back from Japan last night, using $120,000 Virgin Points for R/T first class on ANA. It was incredible!!! I can’t recommend this redemption enough. Really was the perfect start and finish to a fantastic vacation.

  22. I think many of us would appreciate it if a post about specific programs include information on miles expiration. How long does it take them to expire? What can one do to prevent expiration? Different programs have different rules. It would be very helpful to include this info whenever you write about a program.

  23. Surprised that the occasional 30% off Amex points to Virgin Atlantic wasn’t mentioned, resulting in a 93k roundtrip for me from DFW-NRT. Can’t wait to get that Japan trip in for such a great deal! H/T God Save the Points.

  24. @Carl – Check out the section of the post on transfer bonuses. I talked about the 30% Amex > VS bonus and it’s how I booked NH F IAD-NRT. Are you thinking of the IAH-NRT route? JAL flies out of DFW but, the last time I checked, NH does not.

  25. For the ANA award, can you book a roundtrip mixed-cabin award? First one direction and business in the other direction?

  26. @Jordan: To clarify, was going to book ANA one way SFO or LAX to NRT with UA at 110K, and figure out another way to get home (maybe ANA business at 80K), but if it’s 110K RT with VA, then I’ll just do that.
    Unless I’m missing something?

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