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INSIDER SECRET: Even though Virgin Atlantic isn’t part of an alliance, its miles are incredibly easy to earn and offer some great award sweet spots. This is not a program you want to ignore.
While it’s often overlooked because it’s not a member of the three major airline alliances — oneworld, Skyteam and Star Alliance — if you love to redeem miles for award flights around the globe, Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club is a program you should be familiar with.
Right now it’s easy to earn Virgin Atlantic miles because the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard has an increased offer of up to 80,000 miles after meeting a series of spending requirements. For most people, you can look at this offer as a 60,000-65,000 mile bonus because 15,000 of the bonus miles will only be awarded on your card anniversary (every year) if you’ve spent $25,000 in the previous cardmember year. You’ll earn 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening and you can earn an addition 2,500 per authorized user you add (up to 5,000 bonus miles).
Virgin Atlantic miles can be valuable and they are easy to earn without ever taking a flight. You can earn points by making purchases on a Virgin Atlantic credit card, but I prefer transferring points from partner programs such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and Citi ThankYou points.
The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has 3 elite tiers, Red, Silver and Gold. The number of miles earned for flying depends on flight distance, cabin choice, ticket type, and elite tier status. Red members earn standard miles, while Silver members earn standard miles plus 30%, and Gold members earn standard miles plus 60%. You can also earn elite credit with the Virgin Atlantic card, read our full Virgin Atlantic credit card review for more details.
With so many ways to earn, it’s pretty easy to stack up a serious number of miles. Then comes the fun part: redemption. But, if you’re like me, you want to make sure that you’re getting the most value out of every mile. So here are the six best ways to use your Virgin Atlantic Miles.
Best ways to use Virgin Atlantic miles
Before we get into the best ways to use your Virgin Atlantic miles, let’s take a bit of a deeper dive into the possible ways they can be used. Then we will call out some of the best redemptions.
Flights on Virgin Atlantic
It’s pretty simple and straightforward to book reward flights with Virgin Atlantic online. All you have to do is log into your Flying Club account, and be sure to check the “pay with miles” box while using their online search engine.
The flights are divided into standard season:
- April 23, 2019 – June 21, 2019
- September 9, 2019 – December 12, 2019
- January 6, 2020 – April 2, 2020
- April 22, 2020 – June 19, 2020
- September 7, 2020 – December 11, 2020
And peak season:
- June 22, 2019 – September 8, 2019
- Dec. 13, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020
- April 3, 2020 – April 21, 2020
- June 20, 2020 – Sept. 6, 2020
- Dec. 12, 2020 – Dec. 31, 2020
And are redeemable for Economy Classic, Premium, and Upper Class.
The number of miles you’ll pay also depends on where you are flying, as is typical with any award redemption. As a general rule, you’ll pay higher taxes with Virgin Atlantic than some other airlines, so the mileage savings often aren’t worth it. The award taxes and fees can sometimes be as much as the cash price of an economy ticket, although you could look at the taxes and fees as a discounted premium economy or business-class ticket.
Virgin Atlantic also offers flights from the UK to Israel, Europe, India, Africa, China, and Hong Kong.
Flights on Virgin Atlantic partner airlines
Virgin Atlantic isn’t part of an alliance, but they do have a number of partners. Virgin Atlantic partner airlines include:
- Singapore Airlines
- Air New Zealand
- Virgin Australia
- South African Airways
- All Nippon Airways
- Air China
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Air France/KLM (earn miles only)
- Scandinavian Airlines (earn miles only)
In order to book flights on one of Virgin Atlantic’s partner airlines — with the possible exception of Delta — you’re going to have to make a phone call. While this is a bit of an annoyance, Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club agents are typically very knowledgeable and helpful.
Before you hop on the phone, you’ll want to check the availability of your desired award flight. You can usually use the partner airline’s website, one of their other affiliates (such as United.com), or ExpertFlyer to confirm availability.
Now that we’ve covered the different ways to redeem award flights, let’s get to the good stuff. Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic does add taxes, and carrier surcharges on all of their reward flights. Here are the top seven ways to use Virgin Atlantic miles.
1. Fly first class to Japan on ANA
All Nippon Airways is a Japanese airline and is internationally recognized as one of the best first class airways currently operating.
This anomaly in Virgin Atlantic’s award charts is one of the best sweet spots that exists: a first-class round trip flight from the U.S. will only cost you 110,000 miles from the Western U.S. and Canada or 120,000 miles from Eastern and Central U.S.
Business class flights follow the same zones and cost 90,000 and 95,000 miles respectively. This is by far the best value you’ll find from Virgin Atlantic’s award charts and is one of the best miles & points sweet spots in the world.
2. Fly from the U.S. to Africa on South African Airlines
There is a great sweet spot in Virgin Atlantic’s South African Airlines award chart. Flights between Senegal and the U.S. cost only 40,000 miles in economy class and an incredible 50,000 miles in business class. If you’d rather go to Ghana your flights will require 70,000/110,000 points.
This is one of the cheapest ways to get to Africa from the U.S. and is a great route for any adventurous frequent flyer.
3. Fly Virgin Atlantic between the U.S. and U.K.
Rates on Virgin Atlantic flights between the U.S. and U.K. vary by zone (Northeast, Midwest, West) and will cost 20,000-50,000 miles for economy and 35,000-70,000 miles for premium economy depending on season and origin/destination.
There is good value in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flights between the U.S. and U.K., as they only cost 95,000-155,000 miles. If you’re going to spend your miles on a Virgin Atlantic flight, we recommend saving up for one of their Upper Class flights.
You’ll pay high surcharges when you redeem your Virgin Atlantic miles for flights on Virgin Atlantic, but it will still be much cheaper than paying for a flight outright.
4. Fly first class on Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines is frequently ranked as the number one first class airline and is a bucket list experience for every serious frequent flyer. There are a number of options to redeem your Virgin Atlantic miles to enjoy one of the premier flying experiences in the world starting at 50,000 miles round trip (one-way flights cost half the listed price):
- Singapore – Brunei / Indonesia / Malaysia for 50,000 miles
- Singapore – Philippines / Thailand / Vietnam for 60,000 miles
- Singapore – Hong Kong / Taiwan for 90,000 miles
- Singapore – Guangzhou for 90,000 miles
- Singapore – Bangladesh / Maldives / Sri Lanka for 95,000 miles
- Singapore – Japan / South Korea for 100,000 miles
- Singapore – Beijing / Shanghai for 100,000 miles
- Singapore – Turkey / United Arab Emirates for 120,000 miles
- Singapore – Australia / New Zealand for 130,000 miles
- Singapore – South Africa for 140,000 miles
- Singapore – Russia for 165,000 miles
Singapore to South Africa will get you the most bang for your buck, with over 10 hours of first-class flight time each way for only 140,000 miles.
5. Take advantage of Air New Zealand’s incredible value
While Air New Zealand’s rewards are notoriously difficult to find availability for, especially through partner programs, it’s worth checking to see if you can get lucky and it’ll fit into your travel schedule.
Here are the highlights of Virgin Atlantic’s Air New Zealand award chart, all prices are round-trip and one-way flights cost half as much:
- New Zealand – Hawaii for 60,000 miles in coach or 90,000 miles in business class
- South Pacific – Los Angeles for 60,000 miles in coach or 90,000 miles in business class
- New Zealand – North / South America for 80,000 miles in coach or 125,000 in business class
- New Zealand – Asia for 60,000 miles in coach or 80,000 miles in business class
If you’re able to snag one of these deals, consider yourself lucky, as you’ll be one of the few frequent flyers on these flights.
6. Fly Delta from Northern Asia to Hawaii
This anomaly in Virgin Atlantic’s award chart allows you to book a round-trip flight from Northern Asia to Hawaii for a meager 40,000 miles in economy and 70,000 miles in business class.
The real value is in a one-way 20,000/35,000 flight from Hawaii to Japan, especially if you can find a cheap flight to/from Hawaii.
While Virgin Atlantic’s Fly Club may be a bit difficult to sift through, and contains a lot of mediocre deals because of the high surcharges you’ll pay on some award flights, but there is a lot of value if you’re willing to sift through their partner programs and make a few phone calls. Our top redemption options are:
- ANA First Class U.S. to Japan
- South African Airlines U.S. to Africa
- Virgin Airlines premium-economy or business-class flights between U.S. and U.K.
However, each of you may have unique redemptions options or travel needs that allow you to get a better value in a different way. It’s easy to earn Virgin Atlantic miles with the Virgin Atlantic credit card’s increased welcome offer. You can also transfer American Express points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic.
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