Update: The AMEX transfer bonus ends tonight!
In general, Virgin Atlantic charges high fuel surcharges that kill the value of many of their awards. For example a round-trip coach ticket from JFK to London is just 20K miles (under 16K AMEX/Citi points), but the taxes and fuel surcharges add $470. Business class is 95K miles and you’ll also owe $1,328 in taxes and fuel surcharges. Ouch.
If you only need a one-way ticket from NYC to London it’s not as bad. 10K miles+$148 in coach or 47.5K miles+$526 in business class. You may save some money by booking a ticket as a one-way to and from London rather than a round-trip.
However there are some notable sweet spots on partner airlines:
Flying on Delta:
Virgin Atlantic miles can be a bargain for flying on Delta. They often have saver award space, even when there’s none available on Delta.com!
You can even book Delta awards on Virgin Atlantic’s website, but they don’t make it easy.
Step 2: When entering your departure airport, be sure to choose the region and not an individual airport. For example you need to search for New York Area Airports to Los Angeles instead of JFK to Los Angeles as it won’t allow you to search for miles if you type in JFK.
Step 3: It probably won’t let you type in your desired destination airport. If it says “no matches found” you will need to click the location icon as shown below and manually search for your destination by country and state. If your destination still isn’t available you will have to call Virgin Atlantic to book award travel to that destination.
If the option to search for miles isn’t available you also may need to try selecting another airport, click on pay with miles, and then switch the airport. For example NYC to LAX didn’t work for me at first, but I switched the destination to San Francisco, clicked on pay with miles, and then switched back to Los Angeles.
On the search page you can select one-way or round-trip, exact dates, flexible within 1 week, or within 5 weeks. You can also change the class of service by clicking on “Show advanced options.”
Here’s what’s fascinating. In general, partner airlines can only book saver awards.
If you search for JFK to LAX on 12/10 on Delta.com you’ll see that the award costs 14.5K miles, which is not technically a saver award:
However on Virgin Atlantic you can book that flight for just 12.5K miles! Thanks to the 30% bonus from AMEX/Citi that’s like paying under 10K points:
Want to fly business class nonstop from Newark to Paris?
But you can book it with Virgin Atlantic for just 50K miles. That’s under 39K AMEX/Citi points thanks to the 30% bonus!
Unfortunately, there are fuel surcharges to fly on Delta to London, but other destinations should have no fuel surcharges.
Note that the website charges extra for flights with connections. You may want to call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to get them to price the award without the extra pricing for taking a connecting flight.
Flying on ANA:
ANA is an incredible Japanese airline with great first class suites that have very comfortable beds and amazing service. I reviewed them here towards the end of the 4th part of my Island Hopper adventure.
You only need 110K miles to fly round-trip from the west coast to Japan or 120K miles to fly round-trip from the east coast to Japan in first class. That’s under 85K AMEX/Citi points or under 93K AMEX/Citi points respectively, thanks to the 30% bonus.
ANA now collects fuel surcharges on ANA, but they are relatively low.
Here is the Virgin Atlantic award chart for travel on ANA:
Unfortunately, you do need to call Virgin Atlantic to book travel on ANA at 800-365-9500. You can search for ANA award space on United.com.
United charges a whopping 220K miles to fly round-trip from the US to Japan in ANA first class, but you can call Virgin Atlantic to book travel for under 93K AMEX/Citi points!
Flying on Jet Airways:
Their most interesting route to me is their 5th Freedom flight between Toronto and Amsterdam on the Boeing 777-300ER (77W). That plane features 8 first class suites with doors and 49 business class seats in a 1-2-1 herringbone direct aisle access configuration.
Jet Airways 77W first class suite with the doors open:
Jet Airways 77W business class:
Jet also flies the 77W from Delhi to Amsterdam, London, and Hong Kong and from Mumbai to Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, and Paris.
Between Toronto and Amsterdam, a one-way flight would cost 20.5K miles in coach, 41K miles in business, or 60K miles in first class suites. With the 30% bonus that’s like using 15,769 AMEX/Citi points in coach, 31,538 AMEX/Citi points in business class, or 46,154 AMEX/Citi points in first class suites.
There are no fuel surcharges on Jet Airways awards. Taxes from Toronto to Amsterdam are about $40.
A one-way coach ticket would cost $553, imputing a value of 3.25 cents per AMEX/Citi point after backing out the taxes. A one-way business class ticket would cost $4,084, imputing a value of 12.8 cents per AMEX/Citi point. A one-way first class suites ticket would cost $8,040, imputing a value of 17.8 cents per AMEX/Citi point.
If you want to bring a lap child, a one-way flight only costs 1K miles in coach, 5K miles in business, or 7k miles in first class suites for the infant.
Award availability in all classes is excellent. It was available on every date that I checked!
Rates between Hong Kong and India are the same as the rates between Toronto and Amsterdam.
Between Europe and India, a one-way flight would cost 27K miles in coach, 54K miles in business, or 81K miles in first class suites. With the 30% bonus that’s like using 20,769 AMEX/Citi points in coach, 41,538 AMEX/Citi points in business class, or 62,308 AMEX/Citi points in first class suites.
You must call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to get them to price the award without the extra pricing for taking a connecting flight.
Virgin Atlantic phones agents can hold awards for a day or 2.
It’s worth noting that Jet Airways is planning on removing first class eventually, but they are still selling first class seats over the next year.
Will you transfer points from AMEX or Citi to Virgin Atlantic to take advantage of this bonus? What other award sweet spots do you take advantage of?