Best use of Virgin Atlantic miles (by partner)
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The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club might not be the first program you think of when it comes to getting outsized value for your credit card rewards. One of the biggest issues with the program is the high taxes and fees you’ll pay for award flights to and through the U.K. on Virgin Atlantic planes. However, Virgin Atlantic miles can be an excellent option for booking flights with its partner airlines and I’ll show you five great opportunities for flights within the U.S. and overseas.
Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to collect, because they also transfer from many points programs associated with top travel credit cards like:
Here’s what you need to know about Virgin Atlantic’s partners — and some fun sweet spots to stretch your miles.
Intro and quirks of Virgin Atlantic
As with many other airline loyalty programs, prices depend on which partner you end up redeeming your Virgin Miles with. The problem is that you can’t really combine partners on one ticket, at least not for a single price. Many of these partners charge per segment, which is really annoying.
As you’ll see this program has some amazing prices, but with strict routes. Each airline has its own gems with specific uses or city pairings. This chart below of prices by partner (from North America) shows which airline has sweet spots / good deals to specific regions.
Many Virgin Atlantic partner awards (but not all) need to be booked over the phone (call 800-365-9500). When you need to call to book, you’ll find that it’s easier to search for the partner award seats first (using another airline’s website) rather than having the phone agent search for you. For Star Alliance flights (ANA and Air New Zealand), the United Airlines website is a great place to search.
Japan is my new favorite place in the world. I’m convinced I could spend the rest of my life there and never run out of interesting things to eat, see, and do. It’s also the cleanest and safest place I’ve ever been. To top it all off, Japan has some of the best airlines in the world.
Here’s Virgin Atlantic’s partner award chart for round-trip flights with ANA:
|Route||Coach||Business class||First class|
|Japan – South Korea||18,000||35,000||50,000|
|Japan – China / Guam / Hong Kong / Philippines / Taiwan||23,000||45,000||60,000|
|Japan – Malaysia / Myanmar / Singapore / Thailand / Vietnam||40,000||65,000||80,000|
|Japan – Hawaii / India / Indonesia||45,000||70,000||90,000|
|Japan – Australia / Canada / Western USA||60,000||90,000||110,000|
|Japan – Europe / Central & Eastern USA / Mexico||65,000||95,000||120,000|
Again, the above prices are round-trip. As you can see, business and first class prices from the U.S. to Japan start at 90,000 miles round-trip (or 45,000 miles one-way, as Virgin Atlantic now allows you to book these tickets as one-way awards). Exceptional miles and points deals like this are usually reserved for rewards that are extremely hard to earn, like Alaska Airlines miles. And even then, you’d need more miles to book similar flights.
You can easily earn the Virgin Atlantic miles you need to book these awards from as few as two credit card bonuses. That’s a steal when you realize business-class seats can run $7,000+ and first class can be more than double that. And the fees are typically reasonable, usually just $200-$300 round-trip.
If there is one sweet spot you should take advantage of this year, make it this one. This isn’t just one of the best ways to use Virgin Atlantic miles, it’s one of the best award sweet spots from any program.
Virgin Atlantic has a few different Delta award charts, based on where you’re flying.
For some reason, Virgin Atlantic seems to have access to saver-level Delta awards that other partner airlines don’t. This makes Virgin Atlantic miles great for Delta domestic awards because the taxes are so low.
Here’s the award chart for all Delta flights — excluding those to the UK and Europe (more details here):
As you can see, you can book one-way, nonstop Delta domestic awards starting at 7,500 Virgin Atlantic points in coach or 17,500 miles in domestic first class. You’ll be charged based on the distance you fly. You can use Great Circle Mapper to estimate your travel distance.
One drawback of using your Virgin Atlantic points for Delta domestic awards is that you’ll pay per segment, which isn’t the case if you use Delta miles. So this is probably only a deal if you’re flying nonstop.
If you’re flying to the UK specifically, you’ll use this award chart (nonstop flights):
Those taxes and fees are hard to swallow. But flying from the East Coast and Central U.S. gives you some super low award prices during the Standard Season (off-peak dates).
Finally, if you’re flying to Europe nonstop, you’ll use this simple chart:
Air New Zealand
There are three gems here, which I’ll mention, then give the drawbacks.
- U.S. to Auckland for 40,000 miles in coach and 62,500 miles in business class one-way
- Los Angeles to London for 25,000 miles one-way in coach
- New Zealand to South Pacific Islands for 10,000 miles in coach or 15,000 miles in business class
The problem with any Air New Zealand award is available award seats — especially in business class.
15,000 miles for business class from New Zealand to Tahiti is a great deal and experience, but I really struggle to find Air New Zealand business class. If you’re flexible, dates do pop up — but it’s rare.
The other problem is that it’s priced per segment. If you wanted to fly Air New Zealand in coach from Los Angeles to Sydney, it would be 40,000 miles for a one-way to Auckland, and then another 10,000 miles to fly to Sydney.
Here’s the Virgin Atlantic award chart for Air New Zealand flights (all prices are round-trip — so one-ways cost 50%. Details here):
|Domestic New Zealand||15,000||–|
|New Zealand – Australia||20,000||30,000|
|New Zealand – Pacific Islands||20,000||30,000|
|Los Angeles – London||50,000||155,000|
|New Zealand – Asia||60,000||80,000|
|New Zealand – Hawaii||60,000||90,000|
|South Pacific – Los Angeles||60,000||90,000|
|New Zealand – North / South America||80,000||125,000|
|New Zealand — Europe||120,000||190,000|
The airline is part of Star Alliance, so you can book awards with programs like United, Avianca, and Air Canada. With those programs, one-way business-class flights on New Zealand Air to/from the U.S. cost 80,000-90,000 miles. But it only costs 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles to book the exact same flight.
Air New Zealand flies to these U.S. destinations from Auckland:
- Los Angeles
- Honolulu (for only 45,000 miles one-way in business class)
- San Francisco
Other partners: Hawaiian, Air China, and Singapore
Not a lot of winning routes here, so we’ll skim these.
Meh. Here’s the award chart (prices in round-trip, one-ways are half):
For whatever reason, all of the US route options only have economy. (See details here).
Prices from the U.S. are the following (oneways):
- Japan/Hong Kong = 30,000 miles
- Singapore = 45,000 miles
- UK (IAH-MAN) = 30,000 miles
- Germany (NYC-FRA) = 25,000 miles
We’ve got two award charts when flying Virgin Australia.
The only U.S. destination is Los Angeles. This means any U.S. flight is going to be to Australia for 47k/94k, according to the first chart. Specific routes not on the first chart are therefore distance based. Here’s the award chart for Virgin Australia flights (round-trip, one-ways cost half):
However, this has the weirdest way of pricing these distance based awards. It gives an example of Sydney to Melbourne being 438 miles, and therefore categorizes it in the second category. It states the cost to be 25,000 miles for a round-trip, or 12,500 for a one-way.
Therefore, whichever distance tier your flight falls into, chop the above price in half if you’re only going one direction.
Best credit card for earning the miles you need
The best card to open if you want to amass a bunch of Virgin Atlantic miles quickly is an Amex card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. Not only does it have a big welcome offer (75,000 Amex points), it has a reasonable minimum spending requirement ($5,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership).
Chase points, Citi ThankYou points, and Marriott points also transfer to Virgin Atlantic. So just about any of the best travel credit cards will earn you points that you can convert to Virgin miles. You can check out our post on which points transfer to each airline for more details.
Virgin Atlantic partners with many worthwhile airlines — giving their miles so many excellent uses! They’re easy to accumulate, too. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you overlook this loyalty program.
If Virgin Atlantic miles can’t get you to where you want to go for you next vacation, then check out the best airline credit cards for earning frequent flyer miles in more popular programs like American, United, and Delta.
Featured image By IanC66/Shutterstock.
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