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Virgin America is a West Coast based airline that flies to several cities in the United States and a few cities in Mexico. Their flights are concentrated along the West Coast, and from their hub cities (San Francisco and Los Angeles) to the East Coast.
A lot of people like flying Virgin America since they’ve marketed themselves as a very “hip” brand! But most of us care more about Virgin America points and what you can do with them.
How to Earn and Use Virgin America Points
- Part 1: Introduction to Virgin America Points
- Part 2: Earning Virgin America Points
- Part 3: Using Virgin America Points on Partners: Singapore Airlines
- Part 4: Using Virgin America Points on Partners: Hawaiian Airlines
- Part 5: Using Virgin America Points on Partners: Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia
- Part 6: Using Virgin America Points on Partners: Emirates
Part 6: Using Virgin America Points on Partners: Emirates
Link: Virgin America
1. Using Virgin America Points on Partners
While Virgin America’s frequent flyer program uses a revenue-based system on their own flights, they have mileage-based charts for their partner airlines.
You can use Virgin America points on these partner airlines:
- Singapore Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
In most cases, 1-way partner awards cost 60% of the required points for a round-trip ticket. The exception are inter-island flights on Hawaiian Air, where 1-ways cost 50% of the price of round-trips.
All partner awards must be booked over the phone. There is also no way to search partner award availability on the Virgin America website. However, there are other tools you can use depending on the partner airline!
a) Where Does Emirates Fly?
Virgin America is partners with Emirates, and you can use Virgin America points to redeem for flights on Emirates coach and Business Class (you can NOT use Virgin America points for First Class).
However, redemptions on Emirates have very high taxes, fees, and surcharges using Virgin America points.
b) How Many Points Do You Need?
i) Between North America and Dubai
Emirates flies to several cities in North America, and the price depends on whether the city is in the Eastern or Western half of the continent (usually!).
The East Coast is defined as:
- New York (John F. Kennedy)
- Seattle (!?!)
- Washington, DC
The prices round-trip from the East Coast to Dubai are:
- 45,000 points + $740 taxes and surcharges in coach
- 100,000 points + $1,410 taxes and surcharges in Business Class
The West Coast includes:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
The prices round-trip from the West Coast to Dubai are:
- 50,000 points + $740 taxes and surcharges in coach
- 115,000 points + $1,410 taxes and surcharges in Business Class
You can redeem for round-trip award tickets, or for 1-way award tickets at 60% of the points for a round-trip. It is interesting to note that surcharges are much lower (generally about half) when you depart Dubai for both round-trip and 1-way award tickets.
For example, the round-trip surcharge for a coach award ticket from North America to Dubai is $740, but for a round-trip in the opposite direction, the surcharges drop to $280.
And the round-trip surcharge for a Business Class award ticket from North America to Dubai is $1,410, but for a round-trip in the opposite direction, the surcharges are only $730.
You can also book 1-way flights for 60% of the points, and the surcharges are lower for flights from Dubai than for flights to Dubai.
For example, the surcharges on a 1-way flight from New York to Dubai are $350 in coach or $680 in Business Class.
However, from Dubai to New York, surcharges are $150 in coach and $370 in Business Class.
This means that if you are piecing together a set of 1-way award tickets, you should try to use Virgin America points on the flights departing Dubai.
ii) Flights Beyond Dubai
If you want to book an award ticket to destinations beyond Dubai, you have to add the price for each separate segment.
For example, if you wanted to fly round-trip from New York to Delhi, India via Dubai, you would add the price for a New York to Dubai round-trip plus a Dubai to Delhi round-trip. This can get expensive!
A round-trip in coach costs 61,000 points + $950 in taxes and fees, while a round-trip in Business Class would cost 136,000 points (100,000 Business Class New York to Dubai + 36,000 Business Class Dubai to Delhi) + $1,980 in taxes and fees. YIKES!
If you wanted to book a round-trip as a series of 1-ways, it might be best to have a short segment to Dubai and a long segment from Dubai. A 1-way from Delhi to New York on Emirates would cost:
Then add the points required from Delhi TO Dubai.
- 40,000 points + $255 in taxes and fees in coach
- 82,000 points + $650 in taxes and fees in Business Class
You could then use other points to get from New York to Delhi 1-way, like American Airlines miles on Etihad or United Airlines miles on their Star Alliance partner airlines.
iii) Where Else Can You Go?
Emirates has several “5th-freedom routes,” which means they fly many routes between cities that aren’t Dubai. Many of these are in Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, but there’s 1 from the US!
Emirates flies from New York to Milan, Italy (and onward to Dubai). You can use points to fly just between New York and Milan!
Emirates also flies to the Maldives from both Dubai and Colombo, Sri Lanka. There are often great airfare deals to or from Colombo, and you can use Virgin America points to fly the last leg from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.
The Forward Cabin has an extensive list of 5th-freedom routes for many airlines.
c) Emirates Booking Example
i) Finding Award Seats
Virgin America does not show any partner award seats on their website, so we will have to search Emirates award space using another source. The best way to search Emirates award space is with ExpertFlyer (requires a paid subscription).
On the main page, click “Awards & Upgrades.”
Next, insert the departing and arriving airports and date. Select “Emirates – EK” for the airline. If you want to search Business Class, select “Business – Saver Award & Upgrade (D).” If you want to search coach, select “Economy – Partner Award (X).”
Note: You should NOT search for Emirates award seats segment-by-segment, but instead enter only the departing and arriving airports.
The next page will display which flights are available. On the right, you will see a description of which award seats are available (Business Class or coach) and how many seats are available in that cabin. If a cabin does not show a result, that means no seats are available in that cabin.
For flights to cities like New York, pay attention to the aircraft and flight as well. If the aircraft says “388,” that means the flight is an A380. Emirates A380 flights are generally considered to be more comfortable with more space in coach. And there is an on-board lounge in Business Class.
You can use Virgin America points to book flights on their partner airlines, like Emirates. Depending on the route and direction of travel, you may pay very high fuel surcharges.
The easiest way to see if award seats are available is to use ExpertFlyer, a paid subscription.
If you find award seats, you should be able to book using Virgin America points. But you have to call Virgin America at 877-359-8474 to book the ticket.
Virgin America points are very flexible. If you can use them for Virgin America flights, they are worth more than 2 cents each. They are also partners with many airlines both domestically (like Hawaiian Airlines) and internationally, and there are various “sweet spots” for redeeming points.
Lastly, in a pinch, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points to Virgin America if you need to top off an award.