UPDATE 10/11/17: The feature is working again! See this post for details.
UPDATE 8/3/17: The feature described in this post has disappeared! See this post for details.
Thanks to One Mile at a Time I just learned that Virgin Atlantic is now allowing users to book awards on Delta flights online. This is huge because Virgin Atlantic award prices are excellent on many routes and Virgin Atlantic miles are incredibly easy to get. Previously it was difficult to figure out if Delta saver awards were available to partners (since they no longer publish an award chart) and it was difficult to figure out exactly how much Virgin Atlantic would charge, especially on flights with layovers. Now, with online booking and a 5 week availability calendar it’s super easy.
Here are just a couple of compelling examples of easily found good values:
Detroit to Shanghai, round trip, business class
Flights listed at 120,000 miles round trip are non-stop. Higher priced trips include one or more stops. Keep in mind that if you can find availability on Delta’s new Delta One Suites (via the trick I laid out here, perhaps), you should be able to book those suites for just 60,000 miles one-way or 120,000 miles round trip!
Detroit to London, One Way, Business Class
Delta now charges 70,000 miles for this same flight. Virgin Atantic charges only 50,000 miles for non-stop, or 62,500 for one-stop itineraries. Note that return flights cost the same number of miles, but have much higher fees.
Getting Virgin Atlantic Miles
Virgin Atlantic is one of the most promiscuous airlines in that they partner with all transferable currencies: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, SPG, and even Diner’s Club. So, if you have points in any of those programs, you can transfer to Virgin Atlantic to book awards like those shown above. And both Amex and Citi are known to offer transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic about once per year. That way you get even more miles with your transfer.
Additionally, the Virgin Atlantic credit card often has a great signup bonus for those who can spend a lot. See: Virgin Atlantic “90K” offer returns (but it’s really 75K). And the card is not too bad for spend as well. It offers 1.5 miles per dollar as well as a total of 15,000 bonus points with $25K annual spend. If you spend exactly $25K per year on the card, the card averages just over 2 miles per dollar for spend.
A little buggy, but worth the effort
Lucky points out that the Virgin Atlantic interface won’t let you enter in all airports directly, but you can click the little map pin icon and select airports by country or alphabetically.
Additionally, when I first tried to search for Detroit to London, the interface wouldn’t let me choose to show the results in miles. I had to run a different search first and then refine the search to the airports I wanted.
Despite the bugs, I’m excited about this enhancement. Even though the same awards were available before by calling in, personally I’m about 10 times more likely to find and book awards online. And now we can!