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Virgin Atlantic & Ultimate rewards
I was surprised to see that Virgin Atlantic was added as a transfer partner because I expected that Chase would sooner add Fairmont hotels as a transfer partner (since they already issue the Fairmont hotel credit card) than Virgin Atlantic whose credit card is issued by Bank of America.
You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or the JP Morgan Select card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as United Airlines, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz Carlton, Korean Air, Southwest, Amtrak, and Virgin Atlantic
If you have the Chase Freedom or Ink Cash or Classic, you can’t transfer directly to airline or hotel partners. But you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to any of the cards above and from there to an airline or hotel partner.
I love being able to transfer points to United, Hyatt, Southwest and British Airways because I can then redeem for flights or hotel stays which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
That said, I don’t see much use of Virgin Atlantic as a transfer partner except in limited circumstances. That’s because Virgin Atlantic and many of their transfer partners (except US Air, Virgin America, and Hawaiian Air) charge fuel surcharges for redemption. And they have a horrible cancellation policy.
It could be worth it for domestic redemption on Virgin America which start at 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles or for flights to Australia on Virgin Australia because business class awards to Australia are tough using other airline miles. And the ANA distance based chart looks like it has some promise!
You can also redeem for flights within Hawaii (island hopping!) for 15,000 miles.
You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic and from there in a 1:2 ratio to Hilton hotels, so you’re effectively getting 2 Hilton points for every 1 Ultimate Reward point, which is a poor value to me. But it could be worth it to top off your Hilton account.
HORRIBLE CANCELLATION POLICY
Virgin Atlantic has a HORRIBLE cancellation policy for award tickets where you lose 25% of your miles if you cancel an award flight 7 days before departure and you get NONE of your miles back if you cancel within 7 days of departure.
You can change your travel date, route or class of service for 25 GBP or ~$38.
So you better be sure that you won’t cancel the ticket when you make the award booking.
Transfer Time & Ratio
The transfer ratio for ALL Ultimate Rewards points is 1:1, which means that you can transfer 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point to 1 mile or point of any of their hotel or transfer partners.
I made a test transfer of 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic…
…and the transfer was instant. I made the transfer on April 7th in the US, but it was already April 8th in the UK and the transfer was instant, but had April 8 as the date in my Virgin Atlantic account.
However, I wouldn’t transfer points to Virgin Atlantic without a redemption in mind. It is much better to see if the award you want is available before transferring points since you can’t get your transferred points back.
Virgin Atlantic Redemptions
Virgin Atlantic has a great chart which shows you how many miles AND the fuel surcharges for redemptions. Here’s a link to that chart. The chart shows the cost of round-trip travel to and from the UK.
For example, it costs 80,000 miles and $1,300 to fly from Boston, New York & Washington, DC to London and back in Upper Class (business class).
Redemptions in coach are usually a bad value because you pay hefty fuel surcharges AND miles. But do the math to see if it may make sense for you.
Virgin Atlantic flies to London from Boston, Newark, New York (JFK), Washington, DC, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles & San Fransisco. And you can book 1-way awards for half the price.
You can check for award availability using this link.
Hotel Redemption Partners
You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic miles and from there in a 1:2 ratio to Hilton hotels, so you’re effectively getting 2 Hilton points for every 1 Ultimate Reward point, which is a poor value to me. But it could be worth it to top off your Hilton account.
You have to call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton. Transfers take about 10 to 14 days in my experience.
Airline redemption Partners
Virgin Atlantic has a few award partners, but I haven’t seen much information on their partner award charts so I stayed up late to do some digging!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many awards which interested me since either the mileage amount charged was high or you’d have to pay fuel surcharges which makes this a bad value for coach redemptions. But please comment if you find anything interesting!
Hawaiian Air, Virgin America (different from Virgin Atlantic and operates only in the US), and US Air don’t charge fuel surcharges so it could be worth redeeming on those airlines. However, redemptions on US Air will no longer be possible from June.
But redemptions on Virgin America for flights within the US start at only 10,000 miles and look like a good value in coach.
Singapore Air seems like a good redemption partner, since they have lower fuel surcharges than Virgin Atlantic, but you can’t redeem for Business or First Class on their Airbus 380 & 340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER. And Singapore Airlines award availability is usually quite low.
Japanese airline ANA looks like it could be a good option (if you’re willing to pay the fuel surcharges) since you pay 95,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for business class and 120,000 miles in first class for a trip up to 14,000 miles (from the East coast to Japan and back). On the other hand, you’d pay 120,000 United miles in business and 135,000 miles in coach for the same flight using United miles, but you wouldn’t pay fuel surcharges.
Virgin Australia has good availability to Australia from the US, so this could be worth it for some despite the fuel surcharges.
It also isn’t clear if some of the partner award charts are for round-trip or one-way travel.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Air China partner award chart.
Air New Zealand
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Air New Zealand partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic ANA partner award chart.
Japanese airline ANA looks like it could be a good option (if you’re willing to pay the fuel surcharges) since you pay 95,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for business class and 120,000 miles in first class for a trip up to 14,000 miles (from the East coast to Japan and back).
On the other hand, you’d pay 120,000 United miles in business and 135,000 miles in coach for the same flight using United miles, but you wouldn’t pay fuel surcharges.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Cyprus Airways partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Gulf Air partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Hawaiian Airlines partner award chart.
This could be a good value for flights within Hawaii.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Jet Airways partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Malaysia Airlines partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Singapore Airlines partner award chart.
South African Airlines
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic South African Airlines Airlines partner award chart.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic US Airways partner award chart.
However, redemptions on US Air will no longer be possible from June 2013. But the roundtrip awards to Hawaii through Virgin Atlantic are lower than what US Air charges for similar awards.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Virgin America partner award chart.
Redemptions start at only 10,000 miles round-trip along the West Coast and 25,000 miles for a roundtrip in coach for longer flights in coach.
Direct link to the Virgin Atlantic Virgin Australia partner award chart.
Virgin Australia has good availability to Australia, so this could be worth it for some despite the fuel surcharges in business class because business class awards to Australia are some of the toughest to get. Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney.
It is nice to see Virgin Atlantic as a new Ultimate Rewards partner, but you have to really dig through the award charts and pay high fuel surcharges to be able to use Virgin Atlantic miles.
And be very careful of the cancellation policy because you will lose your miles if you have to cancel an award flight.