Sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic Miles #1: Awards to Europe for as Little as 10,000 Points

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This post is part of a series about how to maximize value when transferring your Citi ThankYou Points to airline partners.

Virgin Atlantic has many award charts when redeeming its Flying Club miles. There is one award chart to fly Virgin Atlantic and separate award charts for each of its partners (scroll to page 2). This is a post about sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic miles when flying Virgin Atlantic planes. There will be another post to follow that covers sweetspots on its partner award charts.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are easy to accrue. Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards plus Virgin Atlantic issues an American credit card with a “90,000 mile” sign up bonus. There are a few valuable sweetspots on its award chart flying Virgin Atlantic metal. Virgin Atlantic also frequently runs great sales and promotions. Another nice perk– their miles don’t expire until three years of inactivity. That’s a longer time period than most programs.

Routing Rules

One Way Pricing & Open Jaws

One way Virgin Atlantic awards that fly Virgin Atlantic cost half the price of roundtrip awards. Since you can book one way awards, a roundtrip can have two open jaws.

Stopovers

The Virgin Atlantic award chart prices awards to and from London. If you want to connect in London, but start and end somewhere else, say Los Angeles to Lagos, you basically pay for two awards: Los Angeles to London + London to Lagos.

That means that technically the answer is that yes you can get a free stopover flying Virgin Atlantic awards on Virgin Atlantic flights, but you won’t get a good deal on awards with a connection or stopover.

Fuel Surcharges

Virgin Atlantic awards unfortunately always include fuel surcharges on their own flights. I am never happy to pay them, but I am not foolish enough to never pay them. Even after the fuel surcharges, some of their awards have significant value thanks to low mileage prices.

Sweetspots

Here are some Virgin Atlantic deals I particularly like:

  • Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 17,500 miles + $134.60
  • Premium Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London:  27,500 miles + $234.60
  • Economy Class from Hong Kong to London: 25,000 miles + $22
  • Upper Class from Shanghai to London: 50,000 miles + $277

Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 17,500 miles + $134.60

Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you 30,000 miles. I think it is worth saving 12,500 miles for $129 in fuel surcharges. That’s like buying miles for 1 cent each.

Premium Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 27,500 miles + $234.60

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video. For fewer miles than competitors charge for an economy award ticket, I think of the $229 fuel surcharge like an upgrade fee for economy to Premium Economy. I’d pay that.

Economy Class from Hong Kong to London: 25,000 miles + $22

That’s a lot of flying (12+ hours) for the price tag. Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you anywhere from 35,000 to 55,000 miles.

Upper Class from London to Shanghai: 50,000 miles + $277

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is the best cabin on the plane. It offers offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar. American, United, and Delta will charge 75,000 to 80,000 miles one way on the route after American’s devaluation next month.

Did You Notice Something?

You’ll notice that three out of the four of those listed sweetspots fly to London, instead of from London. That’s because there are massive taxes on flights leaving Great Britain that you have to pay on awards. Avoid them by booking one way to London with Virgin Atlantic miles, taking a train or low cost carrier flight to the continent, and continuing your journey from a low tax country.

Sales and Promotions

Virgin Atlantic will occasionally run sales like the 30% off of Economy and Premium Economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK that is happening right now that lasts until February 24, 2016 (good for travel dates through January 25, 2017). If you book your award in the next week, you can fly the first sweetspot mentioned (east coast US to London in Economy) for only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles. The Premium Economy award on the same routes would only be 19,250 miles.

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles.

You can stack a transfer bonus and an award sale though they haven’t overlapped in the past.

If you had transferred 10,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles during last summer’s 25% transfer bonus, your 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles would be enough to book a one way award to London today!

Searching Award Space

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. Fill in the search form and select “Spend your miles.”

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Results look like this. At the bottom of each date are colors that signify award space.

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Red is economy, white is Premium Economy, and purple is Upper Class.

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Find a date that has the award space you want and click Continue.

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You’ll see the miles needed and the total in taxes and fuel surcharges (note these mile prices in the photo are calculated with the current 30% off sale previously mentioned). If you click Flight Info, you can see the aircraft.

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You can find seat maps on Seat Guru. Most of the planes, including the 787-9 Dreamliner, have Upper Class in a 1-1-1 configuration. I’d pick an A seat since G and K share an aisle. I’d also pick a seat up front to avoid the noise from the bar behind 10G.

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Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways_B787-900.php

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic Miles

Sign into thankyou.com and go to the page listing the 12 airline transfer partners.

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Booking the Awards

When your miles post, head back to Virgin-Atlantic.com, rerun your search, and book there. Use a card with no foreign transaction fees, since purchases from foreign airlines often code as a foreign transaction even when denominated in dollars.

Pay your award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fuel surcharges.

Getting Citi ThankYou Points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The best cards to rack up Virgin Atlantic miles are the:

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic miles are valuable for booking Virgin Atlantic flights. There are some great deals on the normal chart, and regular award sales and transfer bonuses make those deals even sweeter. There are fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic awards that fly Virgin Atlantic flights, including occasionally large ones on Upper Class awards, but sometimes the miles price is so low that the surcharges are worth paying.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks. I figured my strategy for burning these miles as follows: Cheap direct flight to London with VA points, cheap flight from London onto continental EU with BA points, return 30k flight United with stopover.

  2. You wrote:

    Did You Notice Something?

    You’ll notice that all four of those listed sweetspots fly to London, instead of from London.

    Yet, you have the following as the 4th example.

    Upper Class from London to Shanghai: 50,000 miles + $277

  3. […] While some rules are inhibiting, there are some highly valuable sweetspots on their partner award charts. Each partner airline has it’s own award chart. Best of all, many of the partners don’t collect fuel surcharges on their flights, so Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on award tickets on those airlines! This is a refreshing difference from redeeming awards with Virgin Atlantic miles on the airline’s own planes, which I covered in part 1 of this Virgin Atlantic post. […]

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