Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club #2

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This post is part ten of a series about how to maximize value when transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards to loyalty program partners. 

Maximizing Your Ultimate Rewards Series Index

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 some of its partners. Unfortunately not all award prices for flying all partners are published online, sometimes the website tells you to call Virgin Atlantic for further information in lieu of an award chart. 

This is a post about sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic miles when flying partner planes. 

Routing Rules

One Way Pricing

It depends on the partner whether or not you can book one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip. It is possible to book one ways for half the price of a roundtrip flying all of the partners I called in to test:

  • Delta
  • Air New Zealand
  • Air China (although you can’t book Air China awards for the moment)
  • Singapore (although you can’t book Singapore awards for the moment)

Stopovers and Open Jaws

The information is incomplete on the Virgin Atlantic website, and I didn’t test them out. I believe stopovers and open jaws are possible when redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on some partners (like Air New Zealand) and not possible on others. Share your experiences in the comments.

Two other rules you’ll want to pay attention to when booking awards with their partners:

  1. A minimum of 7 days’ notice is required to secure a partner reservation.
  2. You cannot mix and match partner airlines on a single itinerary as far as I know.

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.

Sweetspots on Partner Redemption Charts

  • USA to Southern South America (Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro) roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + taxes
  • USA to Southern South America (Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro) roundtrip in Business Class on Delta: 90,000 miles + taxes
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + taxes
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles + $186 in taxes

USA to Southern South America roundtrip Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + taxes

USA to Southern South America roundtrip in Business Class on Delta: 90,000 miles + taxes

You can actually fly anywhere in South America on Delta for those prices, but the good deal is to Southern South America as those countries are more expensive to access with other miles.

60,000 miles is what United, American, and Delta charge to travel in Economy roundtrip between the US and Southern South America (Rio de Janiero, Buenos Aires, Santiago…). They’ll collect anywhere from 100,000 to 110,000 each way for Business Class down south. That makes both of those Virgin Atlantic awards a pretty sweet deal. Neither award has fuel surcharges flying Delta.

Los Angeles to Auckland in roundtrip Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + taxes

United and American Airlines charge 160,000 miles roundtrip for the same award space. The lack of fuel surcharges on the redemption is great news as well considering Air New Zealand flights have high fuel surcharges.

Business Class award space to New Zealand can be sparse but it exists, especially if you can wait to book until closer to departure.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-09-at-10.47.23-AM
12 to 15 hours on a Boeing 777’s world-class flat bed? More than fine by me

London to New York in roundtrip Economy on Delta: 40,000 miles + $185.96 in taxes

The key here is that the flight originates in London. You can fly the same round trip route originating in New York but it will cost 60,000 miles instead of 40,000, which debunks the sweetspot status. Flights originating in London flying to all of the following cities are also 40,000 miles in Economy: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland (the Portland route doesn’t begin until May 25, 2017).

There are no fuel surcharges on this award. Taxes will be a little high however, as awards departing London always are (in this case around $190).

Theoretical Sweetspots

  • London to Beijing in roundtrip First Class on Air China: 75,000 miles + estimated $285 in taxes + estimated $400 in fuel surcharges
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong roundtrip in Business Class on Singapore Airlines: 110,000 miles + estimated $77.56 in fuel surcharges

What do I mean by theoretical? I do not have tangible proof that you can book these awards at the moment. But they are theoretically bookable.

London to Beijing in roundtrip First Class on Air China: 75,000 miles + an estimated $285 in taxes + an estimated $400 in fuel surcharges 

Nearly $700 is a lot of out of pocket expense to pay for an award. But 75,000 miles for First Class is incredibly cheap. When I called in and spoke to a Flying Club representative, however, she told me that for the moment Virgin Atlantic miles cannot be used to redeem awards on Air China, but that eventually it should be possible. This FlyerTalk thread showed evidence to the contrary, that perhaps the problem between the two airlines had been solved. But I spoke to multiple different Flying Club representatives and they all delivered the same message that it was not possible, until further notice. If anyone has had a successful experience booking an Air China award with their Virgin Atlantic miles, please let us know in the comments. That “until further notice” the agents kept tacking on gives me hope.

San Francisco to Hong Kong roundtrip in Business Class on Singapore Airlines: 110,000 miles + an estimated $78 in taxes

There are also amazing prices listed for Singapore Airlines First Class. Unfortunately I was told pretty much the same thing regarding Singapore bookings–that at the moment, and until further notice, you couldn’t redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Singapore flights.

Screen-Shot-2013-07-02-at-3.50.15-AM
Singapore Airlines Business Class

Other Useful Tips I Learned From a Prior Call with Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.

Where to Search Award Space for Each Virgin Atlantic Partner

How to Book Awards with Virgin Atlantic’s Partners

Once your miles post from the Ultimate Rewards transfer (should be instantaneous), call the Flying Club at 1 (800) 365-9500. This is the US’s office’s contact number, but if it’s after hours you will be automatically transferred to the UK office which is open 24/7.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to collect and can be valuable for booking awards with their 12 partners. There are some great deals on Delta’s, Air New Zealand’s, Air China’s, and Singapore Airlines’ charts. Unfortunately the latter two of those partners you cannot book with Virgin Atlantic miles at the moment, but we’ll keep you updated if that changes. You can get away without paying fuel surcharges on many partner airlines, and ones that do charge them have very low mileage prices that make up for it.


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