Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges

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Warning: I’m only 90% confident in the information in this post. It took several calls and a few hours on the phone talking to incompetent agents to get this information, so I’ll provide it without triple-checking. I invite commenters to check my work.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is an incredible business class product by all indications. (See info about the onboard suite, Clubhouses, Lucky’s trip report, and Lucky’s Revival Lounge report.) It’s got the largest bed in the industry, an onboard bar, and first class service at the airport and in the air.

So why am I not flying it? Fuel surcharges. As I detailed last month, I transferred all my Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points at a 1:2 ratio because Virgin Atlantic’s fuel surcharges on awards make award redemptions horrible values for me. Here’s its award chart:

As you can see, you can’t step into the Upper Class without paying at least $1,105 on top of the miles outlay. So I was intrigued to see this ad in Hawaiian Airlines’ inflight magazine as I flew into Honolulu last week.

Here’s the award chart for flights on Virgin Atlantic using Hawaiian Miles:

For Upper Class from the mainland US to the UK is 100k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. To anywhere else, it’s 140k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. But the real information I wanted–what would the cash outlay be–was not listed. That required a call (or four) to 877-HA-MILES.

The answers I’ve gotten after some long hold times are LAX to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $288 in Upper Class. JFK to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $278 in Upper Class.

That’s $800 less per person if you use Hawaiian Miles to book a Virgin Atlantic trip than if you use Virgin Atlantic’s miles.

Let me give some tips for booking with Hawaiian Miles, then I’ll share some easy ways to beef up your Hawaiian account.

Tips for booking

  • After you call 877-HA-MILES and say “Book a new flight,” you will be transferred to someone who cannot help you. Say as soon as possible, “I want to use my Hawaiian miles to book a flight on Virgin Atlantic.” She will transfer you to someone who can book that.
  • The Hawaiian Miles desk is open 8 AM – 4:30 PM Hawaiian time. This is 2 PM – 10:30 PM EDT and 1 PM – 9:30 PM EST.
  • “Hang up; call again” is your best friend. Some (most?) of the agents are completely incompetent. And each call netted me wildly different award availability.

 

Tips for amassing tons of Hawaiian Miles

  • Start by getting both Hawaiian Airlines credit cards–offered by Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii–on the same day. Each has a 35k sign up bonus after $1k in spending in 4 months. Here’s the FlyerTalk master thread on the cards.
  • Have someone transfer you their Hawaiian Miles for free. Hawaiian Airlines credit or debit card holders can receive miles free. I gave step-by-step instructions on the Share Miles feature in this post.
  • Transfer SPG Starpoints to Hawaiian Miles. The ratio is 1:1, but for every 20,000 SPG points, you get a bonus 5,000 Hawaiian Miles, so 20,000 SPG —> 25,000 Hawaiian.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has the only portal I know of that partners with Amazon.com, so you can get 1 extra miles per dollar on Amazon.com purchases. Not amazing, but better than a poke in the eye.

 

Will I be booking a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat?

Not any time soon. This is an amazing deal to get into the seats for only 100k miles and under $300. But I have 224 Hawaiian Miles in my account, and I have a moratorium on any new trip bookings.


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45 COMMENTS

    • Self-imposed. After I booked the mistake fare to Lima while I was in Paris, I looked at my schedule, and said, “I need to take a break!” Plus, I really want my next trip to be booked the day of or day before for maximum spontaneity.

  1. Thanks for starting a post about this HA/VA redemption option. First of all I’m shocked that you were able to get a flight of any type on VA thru HA. I have 220k miles on Hawaiian. I’ve called that phone many times and I too get incompetent agents. When I finally get one tat can help, there are absolutely no seats to redeem my HA miles. I ask initially am somewhat specific with my dates but then frustration ensues and ask for any Hawaiian Mainland city to LHR (this was prior to JFK being in the picture) for any dates. I’ve done this many times in 2011 2010 and 2009. Would love to hear from others that could (and have) redeemed their HA miles on VA, esp upper class.

    • I wouldn’t say “any city” because they won’t be able to handle that. Gary Leff has a good idea. Find the space on Virgin Atlantic’s site, then call in with a specific redemption in mind. If the agents give you the runaround, hang up and call back until you get Upper Class.

  2. Dang this is awesome…..100K to London but 140K to ANYWHERE ELSE? That means you could fly from BOSTON-Sydney for 140K….not bad at all! now i’m conflicted to keep the hawaiian air as miles or change them to hilton.

    • Hilton are worth like 0.4 cents each, so that would be a last resort transfer. It does say “anywhere else.” Whether they would actually let you go to Sydney is unknown, but the wording suggests they will.

  3. I am interested to hear why you say “Start by getting both Hawaiian Airlines credit cards–offered by Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii–on the same day.”

    Aren’t these separate banks? So why on the same day?

    • Separate banks but the Bank of Hawaii card is managed by a Bank of America subsidiary. Plus I always get my cards on the same day, 91 days apart, so I would get these together.

  4. Another option is UAL through their Star Alliance awards. We are traveling to Europe in September and our return from London is on VA in Upper Class. The round trip was 100,000 from LAX plus about $280 per ticket. UAL points can be strategically accumulated through various Chase credit cards.I actually saw the flight I wanted online but used the call center to book the tickets. This was pre merger so I’m not sure if you would get the same results either online or on the phone now.

  5. Beautiful !!!!

    You’re genius. I’m sure all other bloggers from other sites will be reading your “discovery”. I hope they will give you credit.

  6. This is an excellent find! I have given up on Virgin due to the high surcharges but 140k from US to anywhere is a real gem. I had converted all my HA miles to Hilton so time to build up some more. I will try to churn the BofA cards see if you can get the sign up multiple times. Seems you can churn most of their cards. Nice blog BTW. Will be adding to my reader.

  7. The redemption chart says 70k economy Mainland US and rest of world serviced by Virgin Atlantic. Looking on Virgin site the flight to Sydney or Hong Kong would actually be >100K. So is this right, will i actually pay less because I’ve booked through Hawaii Airlines?

    • YES! It’s not uncommon for a partner’s award chart to be more generous than the airline’s own. I would say that the entire Hawaiian Miles chart for Virgin is very generous.

      • i’m now trying to find a flight to use my >100K Hawaii miles. any advice where i can find routing options and rules to see best use for flights from NYC (economy)

        • I would probably just call Hawaiian. But if an agent says there is no availability over some long time horizon, hang up and call another. Nice to meet you this weekend!

  8. Hi, I cancelled my Virgin Atlantic Amex card this morning. I still have 3,799 points in that account after transferring as many as I could to Hilton. Will I lose the rest of my points due to cancellation? If so, is there anything I can do redeem them quickly today before they are lost? Thanks

    • You don’t lose airline miles when cancelling credit cards. (Bank points are a different story.) I don’t know a good use for 3,800 miles. I have the same problem, so let me know if you find one.

  9. Hi, great post! I have 100K virgin miles that I am trying to use with HA, but with absolutely no luck. VA agents are not competent at all and the hold takes forever only to come back with “no availability for the next 4 months!!!”. Is there a way that I can maximize use of my VA miles? Like you mentioned, there is no way I am paying those surcharges to fly to UK. thank you.

    • This post is about using Hawaiian Miles on Virgin Atlantic flights. To do so, you have to call Hawaiian at 877-HA-MILES. Are you trying to use Virgin Atlantic miles on Hawaiian flights? I haven’t looked into that.

  10. Great post … and great website. I’ve learned a lot from it!
    Any idea if it would be possible to book a one way SFO-LHR on Virgin Atlantic with Hawaiian Miles? Would it be 50k Hawaiian Miles for Upper Class?

  11. Scott – I don’t know if you check old posts of yours for comments, but FYI looks like HA just changed their partner award chart with VS. Looks like West Coast to LHR in Upper Class has gone from 100K miles to 160K miles, and West Coast to Rest of World from 140K to now as high as 320K.

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