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I’ve written about Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program and how it’s often not the best deal because of the high fuel surcharges they add to most award tickets.
Virgin Atlantic is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and you can use their miles on Virgin Atlantic flights, as well as flights on partner airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, and Virgin America. You can also transfer points to Hilton hotels at a 2:3 ratio.
Is it worth transferring the increased 70,000 point sign-up bonus from the Chase Ink Plus card to Virgin Atlantic, even with the high fuel surcharges? Let’s find out.
Note: The Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point bonus offer ends on October 19, 2014.
Use Virgin Atlantic Miles for Virgin Atlantic Flights
Virgin Atlantic adds high fuel surcharges to their own award tickets (and to many partner award tickets, too). Taxes and fees are higher on award tickets in Premium Economy and Upper Class (First Class).
Here’s their award chart with miles and fees for round-trip tickets in all classes of service:
However, Virgin Atlantic periodically runs award seat sales for fewer miles, but the taxes and fees are still high.
1. Example: New York to London Round-Trip in Coach Class for 2 People
You could get 2 round-trip, coach class tickets from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic for 70,000 miles plus $1,000 (35,000 miles plus $500 each).
To compare, a low-level round-trip coach class award ticket on United Airlines from the US to Europe costs 60,000 miles (each!), but the taxes and fees are much lower.
I checked the Virgin Atlantic website for round-trip coach class tickets in May, and the cheapest I could find were ~$1,285 each. So for 2 people, you’d pay ~$2,570.
That’s not bad for 70,000 points, but remember, you’d pay $1,000 in taxes and fees for 2 award tickets. So you’re really only getting a value of $1,570 ($2,570 cost of paid tickets – $1,000 fees on award tickets).
I don’t think this is a great deal because you’d have to spend $1,000 of your own money, but it’s still much cheaper than paying full price!
Example: Los Angeles to London Round-Trip in Premium Economy Class
For 70,000 miles plus $810, you could get a round-trip Premium Economy award ticket from Los Angeles to London.
A round-trip paid ticket in Premium Economy for this route in June costs $2,366!
But again, you’re really only getting a value of $1,556 ($2,366 cost of paid ticket – $810 fees on award ticket). So this is only a good deal if you don’t mind spending $810 in taxes and fees.
Example: San Francisco to London 1-Way in Upper Class
A 1-way Upper Class ticket from San Francisco to London costs 50,000 miles and ~$500 (the fees aren’t exactly half the round-trip price, because the departure tax leaving London is much higher).
So you’d have miles left over from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus, and get to experience the excellent food and service Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class is known for.
I checked the price of a 1-way Upper Class ticket from San Francisco to London in June. The cheapest ticket was ~$6,840!
Note: Full fare paid Upper Class tickets come with chauffeur service. But you will NOT get the chauffeur on award tickets. 🙁
Chauffeur aside, you’re still getting amazing value from 50,000 miles. Even if you subtract the ~$500 in taxes you’d pay on an award ticket, you’re still getting ~$6,340 worth of travel (~$6,840 cost of paid ticket – ~$500 fees on award ticket). That’s fantastic!
And remember, you’d still have 20,000 points left over for another trip.
Use Virgin Atlantic Miles on Hawaiian Airlines
You won’t be charged fuel surcharges if you use Virgin Atlantic miles for award tickets on Hawaiian Airlines. A round-trip, coach class inter-island ticket costs 15,000 miles.
So with the 70,000 point Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus, plus 5,000 points from meeting minimum spending requirements, you’d have enough for 5 round-trip inter-island flights.
I checked the price of a round-trip, coach class ticket on Hawaiian Airlines between Honolulu and Lihue, Kauai. Those tickets cost ~$162 each, so for 5 tickets you’d get ~$810 in value. That’s not good at all!
In fact, you’d do better by using Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly through the Chase Travel Portal. For the same flights, they charge 14,608 points per person, or 73,040 points total (5 tickets x 14,608 points per ticket). You’d pay fewer points!
You’d get better value by spending 40,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for a round-trip, coach class Hawaiian Airlines award ticket between the continental US and Hawaii. For example, a flight between New York and Honolulu costs ~$848.
And you’d have 30,000 miles left over from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus to use for something else!
Transfer Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton Hotels
Link: Hilton Award Chart
You can transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton hotels at a rate of 2 Virgin Atlantic miles : 3 Hilton points.
This means that you’d get 105,000 Hilton points if you transferred the Chase Ink Plus 70,000 mile sign-up bonus to Virgin Atlantic, and then to Hilton (70,000 Virgin Atlantic miles x 1.5).
Hilton is NOT a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so if you need Hilton points this could be a good way to get them!
Hilton award nights start at 5,000 points per night for Category 1 hotels, up to 95,000 points per night for their top Category 10 hotels.
So you’d have more than enough points to book 1 night in a Category 10 hotel, like the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. But sometimes it’s hard to find award nights at hotels like this, so you have to keep checking.
A paid stay at the Conrad Maldives can cost over $1,600 per night!
I’m not sure I’d use the entire sign-up bonus from the Chase Ink Plus on 1 night’s hotel stay, but it could be worth it for some folks if they’ve dreamed of staying at a top-category hotel!
Instead I’d use the 2 free weekend nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card and save the Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the flight!
Transferring the Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point sign-up bonus to Virgin Atlantic could be a good deal for folks who really want to fly Virgin Atlantic, but you’ll have to pay hefty fuel surcharges.
You won’t pay fuel surcharges on some partner airlines, like Hawaiian Airlines, but you won’t always get a good value from your points.
And if you transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton hotels, you’ll have enough points (with some left over) for a night at a top-category hotel. That could be worth $1,600 + for 1 night!
That said, you’ll generally get more travel by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to other airline and hotel partners.
What have you used Virgin Atlantic miles for?