Best uses for Virgin Atlantic points (Sweet Spot Spotlight)

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Virgin Atlantic points are super easy to get.  For example, you can sign up for the Virgin Atlantic credit card (which currently has a 65K welcome bonus) and then average more than 2 cents per dollar on spend with that card.  Even better, points transfer 1 to 1 from Amex Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards.  And, both Amex and Citi often offer transfer bonuses such that transfers to Virgin Atlantic are often better than 1 to 1.  With all of those points easily accessible, the question is what to do with them…

Necker Island Celebration Week

In 2016 I redeemed Virgin Atlantic points for an all-inclusive week for 2 on Sir Richard Branson’s private island (Necker Island). See this post for more.

This is the ultimate splurge.  Sir Richard Branson (founder of Virgin businesses) lives and works on his private island named Necker Island.  Each year he designated around 8 weeks as “Celebration Weeks”.  During Celebration Weeks, guests can book the all-inclusive week for 2 adults starting at $35,000 (details here).  Alternatively, those with lots of Virgin Atlantic points can book the same week for 1.5 million points.  While that’s a crazy number of points, it amounts to an excellent 2.33 cents per point value compared to the cash rate.  Note that you have to have Virgin Atlantic Silver or Gold status to book this award.  That said, it’s fairly easy to get that status through credit card spend alone.

How to book: Call Virgin Limited Edition at +44 (0) 208 600 0430, or contact via email: enquiries@virginlimitededition.com

North America, Europe, or Australia to Japan (ANA First Class)

ANA 777-300ER First Class The Suite. Image courtesy of ANA’s website.

Virgin Atlantic points can be used to fly ANA (All Nippon Airways).  The following chart shows round-trip award pricing using Virgin Atlantic points:

The sweet spots on this chart are in the bottom two rows and far-right column.  Fly long-haul ANA first class round-trip between Japan and either Australia, Canada, or Western USA for only 110,000 points.  Or, fly long-haul ANA first class round-trip between Japan and either Europe, Central USA, or Eastern USA for only 120,000 points.

Some of these flights (such as between JFK and Tokyo, as shown above) often sell for over $20,000 but can be had for 120,000 points or less!  Compared to the cash price you can easily get 16.67 cents per point value!

How to book: Call Virgin Atlantic or text them. Text 97634 (from US) or text 07481 339184 (from anywhere else).

US to New Zealand (Air New Zealand Business Class)

Virgin Atlantic charges only 125K round-trip or 62,500 points one-way for Air New Zealand business class non-stop flights between New Zealand and North or South America.  I believe that Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver.  Unfortunately finding award availability is notoriously difficult.

How to book: Call Virgin Atlantic or text them. Text 97634 (from US) or text 07481 339184 (from anywhere else).

US to Europe (Delta One Business Class)

Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta One business class from the United States to Europe for only 50,000 points one way.  This is for all routes other than to/from the UK.  Unfortunately, flights to/from the UK include extremely high award fees.

The trick to optimizing this award is to begin your journey in the United States.  If you book a one-way flight from the US to Europe you’ll pay only $5.60 in fees:

With a round-trip flight originating in the US, you’ll pay a reasonable amount in fees (fees will vary depending upon the European airport you return from).

If you book your flight departing from Europe, though, fees will be far higher:

FlightConnections shows that Delta flies from the US to these European airports:

If you want to go to airports other than those shown above, you can do that too.  Book a mixed partner award where you fly Delta across the Atlantic to either Paris or Amsterdam and then fly onward on Air France or KLM to wherever you really want to go.  Full details can be found here: New sweet spot — Virgin Atlantic mixed-partner award to Europe

How to book: book online (details here)

North America to Europe (Air France Premium Economy)

Use Virgin Atlantic points to book Air France Premium Economy from North America to France for as few as 24,000 points one way (plus fees, as shown below).  The best pricing is from “East Coast North America & Caribbean,” but that includes states as far west as Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Here are the award prices and fees for Premium Economy to/from Europe:

  • East Coast North America & Caribbean
    • Point Price: 24K Standard / 34K Peak
    • Fees to Europe: ~$160
    • Fees from Europe: ~$240
  • West & Central Norht America & Central America
    • Point Price: 39K Standard / 49K Peak
    • Fees to Europe: ~$160
    • Fees from Europe: ~$240

FlightConnections shows that Air France flies from these East Coast North American airports:

How to book: book online (details here)

US to London (Economy Class)

Whether you want to fly Delta or Virgin Atlantic, you can use Virgin Atlantic points to fly cheaply from the East Coast to London.  Virgin Atlantic offers the same pricing whether flying Delta or Virgin Atlantic (but fees are higher when flying Delta) when flying towards the UK.  Flying from the US to London for 10K to 15K during standard season is a bargain even after accounting for award fees.  Here are the award prices:

  • East Coast US (Boston, Newark, New York JFK, Washington DC): 10K standard, 20K peak
  • Midwest & South US (Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando): 12.5K standard, 22.5K peak
  • West Coast US (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Seattle): 15K standard, 25K peak

As shown in the images below, when flying from the US to London, you can expect to pay about $150 in fees when flying Virgin Atlantic or ~$225 when flying Delta:

In the opposite direction I saw the opposite: approximately $185 in fees flying Delta vs. $265 flying Virgin Atlantic.  Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic charges more for flying Delta in this direction (15K instead of 10K).

How to book: book online (details here for booking Delta flights)

US to South Africa (South African Airways)

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot

Virgin Atlantic charges only 150K round-trip or 75K points one-way for South African Airways business class non-stop flights between South Africa and the US.  Note that award space is notoriously difficult to find.

What about Dakar Senegal? The sweetest sweet-spot on Virgin Atlantic’s partner award charts is arguably the ability to fly South African Airways between the US and Senegal for only 25K one-way in business class.  Unfortunately, South African Airways has stopped flying that route, so that sweet-spot no longer applies.

How to book: Call Virgin Atlantic or text them. Text 97634 (from US) or text 07481 339184 (from anywhere else).x`

Hong Kong to London (Virgin Atlantic)

Flights from Hong Kong do not include fuel surcharges.  As a result, Virgin Atlantic flights from Hong Kong to London are really cheap.  Here are the one-way prices:

  • Economy: 12.5K standard or 22.5K peak + ~$42 in fees
  • Premium Economy: 22.5K standard or 32.5K peak + ~$42 in fees
  • Business: 57.5K standard or 67.5K peak + ~$45 in fees

How to book: book online at Virgin Atlantic.

Nonstop Flights (Delta Economy)

Virgin Atlantic offers a distance based award chart for Delta flights (except those between the US and Europe).  This means that short, non-stop Delta flights can be booked cheaply.

As you can see above, one-way flights start at only 7,500 points one-way.  On some routes, this can be a huge bargain compared to booking with Delta miles.  Usually the best deals are found on the shortest flights, but even long flights can be much cheaper when booked with Virgin Atlantic miles.  For example, for Delta’s crazy-long flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg South Africa, Delta wants a minimum of 60,000 points one-way:

If the same flight was available to partners, Virgin Atlantic would charge only 45,000 points for for the same economy ticket.

How to book: book online (details here)

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