Should Delta flyers credit to Virgin Atlantic?


Credit Delta to Virgin Atlantic?

Virgin Atlantic has been sending emails to its members saying that Virgin Atlantic Silver status now offers more perks when flying Delta.  I’ve previously written about the advantages of booking Delta award flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.  But now I’m wondering: does it make sense to credit paid Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic too?

My bet, before looking into this in detail, is that it does make sense to credit Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic for those who carry on luggage and do not have and are not seeking high level Delta elite status.  My thought about carry-on luggage is that by crediting to Virgin Atlantic you’ll lose free checked bags that you would get by holding a Delta credit card or by having Delta elite status.  And, regarding those who have or seek Delta elite status: crediting to Virgin Atlantic would obviously be a bad idea because it would stand in the way of getting status and you wouldn’t benefit from Delta elite perks.

I’m writing this intro before investigating the details.  What I know going-in is that Virgin Atlantic Silver status is pretty easy to achieve either by flying Delta long-haul and crediting to Virgin Atlantic, or via Virgin Atlantic credit card spend, or a combination of both.  Meanwhile, I gather from the list of Silver perks shown above that free upgrades to first class and free checked bags (both of which are Delta Silver benefits) are not benefits of Virgin Atlantic Silver.

Earning Silver: Delta vs. Virgin Atlantic

My hypothesis going-in is that Virgin Atlantic Silver is much easier to achieve and maintain than Delta Silver.  Let’s look at the requirements for each:

Delta Silver Requirements


  • MQMs: Medallion Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown. It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights. MQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • MQSs: Medallion Qualifying Segments are the number of segments flown.
  • MQDs: Medallion Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your spend on Delta-marketed flights.
  • MQD Waiver: Spend $25,000 in a calendar year across one or more Delta credit cards in order to remove the MQD requirement (up to Platinum status. A Diamond status MQD waiver requires $250K spend).

Delta Silver status requires each calendar year earning 25,000 MQMs (or 30 MQSs) and either $3,000 MQDs or an MQD waiver.

I’d argue that the easiest path to Silver for the average Delta flyer is to spend $25K per year on a Platinum Delta SkyMiles or Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business credit card.  This $25K spend will result in the MQD waiver and 10K bonus MQMs (as well as 10K bonus redeemable miles).  Once you account for the MQD waiver and the 10K MQM bonus, you only need 15K miles flown per year to obtain and keep Silver status.

Delta Silver summary: Earn Delta Silver status by flying 15K miles and spending $25K per calendar year on a $195 credit card.

Virgin Atlantic Silver Requirements

Virgin Atlantic requires earning 400 Tier Points per rolling 12 months in order to achieve and maintain Silver status.  There are two easy ways to earn Tier Points within the US: credit card spend and flying Delta.

Credit Card Spend: The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard earns 25 tier point towards elite status per $2,500 spend within a billing cycle (max 50 tier points per billing cycle).  You can maximize credit card rewards by spending exactly $25K on the card $2,500 at a time (see this post for full details).  With $25K per year spend ($2,500 at a time), you’ll earn 250 Tier Points and you’ll need only 150 more for Silver status.  Alternatively, you can spend $40K per year to get the full 400 Tier Points required for Silver.

Delta flights: By crediting paid Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic, you can earn Tier Points as shown in this chart:

Discount economy tickets earn only 5 Tier Points per segment flown.  If you want to earn Virgin Atlantic Silver exclusively through flying domestic Delta discount economy tickets, you would have to fly 80 segments.  That’s insane.  Even if you pay for non-discount economy or Delta Comfort+, you would have to fly 40 segments.  In either case, you’d be much better off crediting to Delta.  At the other extreme, if you fly one international round-trip (e.g. two segments) regular fare Delta One flight, you’ll earn 400 Tier Points and achieve Silver with that single flight.

A more realistic scenario, perhaps, is for those who fly Delta Comfort+ internationally a couple of times per year.  Two round trip flights of 3000+ miles each is enough to secure Virgin Atlantic silver.  On the other hand, those same flights credited to Delta will also get you close to Silver status, especially if you earn 10K MQMs from a Delta Platinum card.  And by crediting to Delta you’ll earn the same MQMs when booking discount economy.

Flights plus spend: I’d argue that the easiest path to Virgin Atlantic Silver is to spend exactly $2500 per month, every month, in order to earn 300 Tier Points per year.  Then, it would require only 10 Comfort+ domestic segments (5 non-stop round-trips) to get Silver.  If you regularly fly with connections or fly more than 3000 miles, you’ll get there even faster.

Earning Silver: Delta vs. Virgin Atlantic conclusion

Earning Silver status is much easier with Virgin Atlantic than Delta under certain circumstances.  For example, when crediting to Delta, one of the best ways to get to Silver is with $25K credit card spend and 15K miles flown.  With Virgin Atlantic, you can spend $2500 per month on the credit card ($30K per year) and fly a relatively small amount to get to Silver.  A glaring exception is for those who fly lots of individual domestic segments.  In that case, you’re much better off crediting those flights to Delta.

Silver vs Silver Benefits

OK, so it’s easier for many to get to Virgin Atlantic Silver, but what perks would you be giving up?

When flying Delta with Virgin Atlantic Silver status you get priority check-in and boarding.  You get the same benefit with any Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve credit card or Delta Silver status.

You also supposedly get priority baggage, but I’m not sure about that.  The only priority baggage I’m aware of with Delta is when they tag your luggage as Sky Priority and it then usually comes out on the belt before non-priority luggage.  Sky Priority is only available to Delta Gold and higher or Virgin Atlantic Gold and higher.  So, maybe this is a real benefit of some kind, but I’m dubious.

Finally, with Virgin Atlantic Silver, you get a 30% bump in earned miles.  I’ll dig into that separately.

In addition to the above benefits, Delta Silver includes the chance of getting free domestic upgrades to Comfort+ and first class 24 hours before departure, free companion upgrades, free preferred seating selection, and waived bag fees.

Clearly Delta Silver status is way more valuable than Virgin Atlantic Silver, except maybe with regards to miles earned on paid flights.

Silver vs Silver Miles Earned

My bet is that you’ll earn far more miles by crediting flights to Virgin Atlantic than to Delta.  Let’s see…

Delta SkyMiles earned on Delta flights

Delta basic members earn 5 miles per dollar.  Delta Silver Medallion members earn 7 miles per dollar.  Let’s assume that you spend $3,000 per year on Delta flights (that equals the amount of MQDs needed to reach Silver if you don’t get an MQD waiver).  In that case, you’ll earn 3000 x 7 = 21,000 Delta SkyMiles per year.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles earned on Delta flights

When you credit Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic, you earn miles based on the distance flown.  You earn more miles for higher class of service tickets.  Plus, Silver elites get a 30% bump.  Here’s the earning chart without the 30% increase:

If we assume, worst case that all of your flights are discount economy (booking class L, U, T, X, or V), and that you fly 25,000 miles per year, then we can calculate mile earnings.  Virgin Atlantic miles earned = 25,000 x 50% x 1.3 (Silver bump) = 16,250.  Wow, that’s worse than crediting to Delta.

On the other hand, if we assume that you book Comfort+ most of the time, the math changes completely.  Virgin Atlantic miles earned = 25,000 x 150% x 1.3 (Silver bump) = 48,750.

Earning miles: Delta vs. Virgin Atlantic conclusion

I’m surprised to find that someone spending $3K per year to fly 25K miles on Delta discount economy tickets will do better crediting their flights to Delta than to Virgin Atlantic.  On the other hand, the same person will do much better with Virgin Atlantic if they predominantly buy Comfort+ tickets.

Overall Conclusion

I started this post betting that it does make sense to credit Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic for those who carry-on luggage and do not have and are not seeking high level Delta elite status.  I was wrongThe real answer is much more complicated.  If you tend to book Comfort+ or first class paid tickets and you’re unlikely to earn Delta elite status, then yes it makes sense to credit to Virgin Atlantic.  Also, if you don’t fly Delta enough to even consider elite status, you might want to credit flights to Virgin Atlantic just because the miles can be worth more (but not always!), and they’re easier to get (since Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards).

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I don’t think you are doing an appropriate comparison. Let’s assume you are able to fly 25,000 miles spending $3000 on discount economy tickets. So in that case your first comparison is fine. But if you only fly comfort+ you are likely to spend significantly more money and so the miles credited to Delta would increase. Maybe still better off crediting to Virgin but the difference is likely smaller.