This post has been updated for 2021. Now that Virgin Atlantic has rolled out new award pricing for Delta flights, new sweet spot awards are available for Delta economy flights, but most long distance business class awards are now much more expensive than before. Fortunately, 50K business class awards between the US and Europe are still available.
For select routes, one of the best ways to book Delta flights is with Virgin Atlantic points. On non-stop flights, Virgin Atlantic often charges fewer points than Delta for the same Delta flights. Sometimes the difference can be extreme. For example, Delta might require over 300,000 miles for the same flight that Virgin Atlantic would charge 50,000 points.
Virgin Atlantic also has low award change and cancellation fees. Virgin Atlantic charges only $50 per passenger. Even better, on awards that incur less than $50 in taxes and fees to book, you’ll lose those fees, but you won’t have to pay $50 to cancel and get your points back. It’s worth noting, though, that this is no longer a big advantage over booking with Delta miles. Delta now waives award and cancellation fees for flights originating in North America. When booking flights originating elsewhere, though, Virgin Atlantic’s low change and cancellation fees are still an advantage.
Virgin Atlantic points can be earned in many ways. In fact, you might already have access to Virgin Atlantic points indirectly: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards all transfer 1 to 1 to Virgin Atlantic. And both Amex and Citi are known to occasionally offer transfer bonuses so that you’ll get more than 1 Virgin Atlantic mile for each point transferred. See our Current Transfer Bonuses page for up-to-date information about which transfer bonuses are currently available and which ones have been available in the past.
Another great way to earn points is with the Virgin Atlantic credit card which earns 1.5 points per dollar for all spend in addition to incentives for high spend. For an in-depth analysis of this card, see: Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard Deep Dive: Maximize Earnings and Status.
8 things you need to know
- Search and book online: Most itineraries can be booked online at virginatlantic.com.
- Book nonstop flights: Virgin Atlantic charges separately for every leg of the trip. When multiple legs are required, it is often cheaper to book the same flights with Delta miles.
- Watch out for the 21 day blockade. For domestic flights within 21 days of departure, Delta often blocks awards from partners such as Virgin Atlantic. This means that it may not be possible to book the flight you want if the departure date is within 21 days.
- Mind the bugs: The Virgin Atlantic website is buggy, but there are easy workarounds detailed later in this post.
- You may have to contact Virgin Atlantic: Some international destinations served by Delta are not available to book through the Virgin Atlantic website. For example, Delta flies to the Seoul Incheon airport in South Korea but the Virgin Atlantic website isn’t aware of that airport. In order to book awards to those cities, it’s is necessary to contact Virgin Atlantic by phone or by text.
- Search and book via text: If you want to find award availability and/or book awards for Virgin Atlantic partners like Delta (or ANA, or Virgin Australia, or Singapore Airlines, etc.), you can text them from the US at 97634 (or text internationally: 07481 339184). I’ve done this a few times when I didn’t want to be stuck on the phone. My experience was that it can sometimes take quite a while to get a response, but it’s useful since you can set the request in motion and then do other things until you get a response. An example text I sent was “Hi, can you check a partner award for me? One person ATL-BOG Jan 21 flying Delta economy or business class.” In that particular case, I got an answer back within 2 minutes. Other requests have taken much longer.
- Instant point transfers: Point transfers from Amex, Chase, or Citi to Virgin Atlantic are usually instantaneous. This is great because you can find available award space before transferring points and then transfer and book the award with little risk of someone else swooping in to book the same flights.
- Book Virgin Atlantic flights with Delta miles: Just as it is often much cheaper to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic points, it is often cheaper to book Virgin Atlantic flights with Delta miles. Weird huh?
Virgin Atlantic has published comprehensive award charts for Delta flights (found here). There are three separate award charts: US to UK, US to Europe, and all other routes. Virgin Atlantic also lists pricing for lap infants.
US to UK Award Chart
The following are one-way non-stop award prices for Delta flights between the United States and the United Kingdom. Note that while award prices are competitive, taxes on Delta One (business class) flights are extremely high. The sweet spot here is flying standard season main cabin for only 10K to 15K points plus $262 in fees.
US to Europe Award Chart
The following are one-way non-stop award prices for Delta flights between the United States and Europe (excluding United Kingdom). Unlike flights to the United Kingdom, taxes and fees are nearly nonexistent for flights originating in the US. You will pay a few hundred dollars in fees, though for flights originating in Europe.
Gotta love the simplicity of this chart!
All Other Nonstop Flights Award Chart
Award pricing for all other routes is based on the distance flown. Very short flights are cheap, but very long flights are (in my opinion) unreasonably expensive for flying Delta One or First Class.
Sadly, if your flight includes multiple segments, each segment is priced separately.
Lap Infant Award Chart
Infants under two who do not require their own seat at the time of travel can be added with the following award prices:
Step by Step Guide
Here’s how to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic points:
Enter your search criteria
Browse to virginatlantic.com and enter your origin and destination airports; select “round trip” or “one way” (I recommend booking one-way awards); select your travel dates, and the number of passengers.
Set advanced search criteria
Click the “Advanced search” link, then select “Points” under “Show Price in” Then choose whether to search for Economy or Upper Class seats. If you want to fly Delta first class or Delta One, select “Upper Class.” Always click “Show flexible dates” to increase the chances of finding available awards. When ready, press the red circle with arrow to start the search.
Find available award days
Delta does not make all award seats available to partners, so there may be days with no seats available at all. Or, if you’re lucky, you may find the exact flights you need.
Important: Delta appears to block partner award space within 21 days of departure on domestic flights. If you want to fly within the US and you have 21 days or less before departure, then you are unlikely to find flights bookable with Virgin Atlantic. Here’s an example of what close-in calendar view often looks like for domestic flights. February 1 is 21 days from the date that I ran this search and is therefore the first day that shows award availability:
Switch to 5-week view
If your initial search doesn’t reveal useful results, switch to the full 5 week calendar view. Above the one-week view, you should see the option for “Calendar view”. Click there to see 5 weeks at a time.
Select and book your flight
Once you find a date that has award availability, click the link within that date to see available flights. Here’s an example showing two available flights:
To book the flight, simply click on the award price next to the flight you want. For example, if you want to fly main cabin, in the example above you would click “8,500”. This will then lead you through a straightforward checkout process.
To learn more about the flight (or flights) before booking, click “Details“. This shows you the specific flight number, aircraft, and more. And to see available seats and seat configurations for a flight, click “Seats.”
Optionally add your Delta number
If you have elite status with Delta, you may want to add your Delta account number to the reservation:
After you receive an email confirmation of your booking:
- Log into your Delta account on Delta.com
- Go to: My Trips… Find My Trips
- Use the Virgin Atlantic confirmation number to find the flight
- Next, you can modify the flight details, remove the Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer number, and then add your Delta account number
- Now the flight will appear under “My Trips” on Delta.com
Dealing with bugs and limitations
Pay with Points is grayed out
If the website only lets you choose “Pay with card” and not “Pay with points,” the workaround is to temporarily changing the flight destination to London (LHR). It will then be possible to select “Pay with points”. Then change the destination back to the one you want. Note that other settings may have to be re-established as well (such as the number of weeks to search).
Destination doesn’t auto-complete
This problem used to happen regularly, but it seems to be mostly fixed. Still, if you type in your destination city and the text box doesn’t auto-complete, you have two options:
- Type the destination into the departure airport text box and then copy and paste it into the destination box.
- Use the map icon to find your destination from a drop-down list.
Airport not found
Many foreign airports aren’t loaded into the Virgin Atlantic system. If you want to book flights to one of these airports, it can’t be done online. I recommend first finding award space and then contacting Virgin Atlantic to book it:
Find Award Space
Air France’s website can be used to search for Delta award space. You need an Air France Flying Blue account to search for awards. And note that the Air France award availability calendar does not work for Delta flights. You need instead to search for Delta awards on specific dates. If you find award availability through Air France on Delta flights, ignore the award price that Air France wants to charge. Virgin Atlantic has different award pricing for the same flights. The key is that if Air France can see the award space on Delta flights, then Virgin Atlantic should be able to also.
Another option is to use a tool like Juicy Miles to search for award space. One advantage of Juicy Miles is that it can not only find award space, but it will also estimate the number of points required for the flight. This is the only way I know of to find the Virgin Atlantic award price online for flights that are not bookable online. One downside of Juicy Miles is that there’s a fee to use it. For details, see: Juicy Miles: Finally, a Kayak-like tool for flight awards!
I believe that it’s also possible to find award space with the paid tool Expert Flyer. Like Air France’s website, Expert Flyer can’t show you how much the award will cost, but it can search a week at a time.
Contact Virgin Atlantic to confirm and book
Before moving points from a transferable points program to Virgin Atlantic, I recommend contacting Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to confirm that the award you want is really available and to confirm what they’ll charge.
Below you’ll find Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s contact information. Please note that you can text them if you prefer not to call: