Virgin Atlantic releases award floodgates. Let the bookings begin!

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Virgin Atlantic’s wide-open award space is the headline topic for this week’s edition of Frequent Miler on the Air, but we also gave updates to the 3 Cards 3 Continents Challenge, discussed Nick’s successful use of a Marriott Suite Night Award, and then discussed whether those Suite Night Awards are even worth the paper they’re virtually printed on.

Elsewhere on the blog this week, Nick’s wife found out how to extend expiring free night certificates, Bilt enhanced their rewards, Nick detailed the best international airline sweet-spot awards, I detailed the best new points-bookable hotels, and more.  Watch, listen, or read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.

00:01:27 Giant Mailbag: How to log into hotel wi-fi with a Chromebook
00:04:44 3 Cards 3 Continents 3 Updates
-1. Stephen cashes out 50K Membership Rewards
-2. Greg exchanges 40K ThankYou points for 56K Avios
-3. Nick needs to cancel his first booking
00:14:59 Mattress Running the Numbers: Biltmore Arizona
00:18:35 Awards we booked this week (St Pancras, London)
00:23:07 Main Event: Virgin Atlantic releases award floodgates
00:45:53 Question of the week: Are Marriott SNAs worth anything anymore?

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This week at Frequent Miler

Virgin Atlantic opens award space gates & enhances Air France mile value

Update: It appears that Virgin Atlantic is no longer releasing their extra award space to partners.  When I originally researched this, I found that Virgin Atlantic award space booked through Delta or Air France closely matched what I saw on Virgin Atlantic’s own website.  Now, unfortunately, very few of those seats appear to be available to partners.

Virgin Atlantic has vowed to open at least 12 award seats on every flight: 8 economy seats, 2 premium economy, and 2 upper class (AKA business class).  This has led to an amazing amount of award space being available on all routes I checked… at least for now.  This post details why Air France miles (which transfer from everywhere) may just be the best option for booking these readily available flights.

Delectable international sweet spots

Sweets found at tea time at St Pancras London circa 2019

Usually we write about sweet-spot flight awards for flights originating in the United States.  In this case, Nick took a wider view to find great award sweet-spots for traversing from one foreign country to another.  I was hoping that Nick’s list would help me complete my Round-the-World adventure for our 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge, but none of his sweet-spots sated my needs.  Still, there’s great stuff here that I hope to use in future travels.

The best points-bookable new hotels in the world (2022)

For this post, I dug through Travel & Leisure’s 2022 list of the best new hotels in the world and found the ones that are bookable with points.  Are these really the best new hotels in the world?  I don’t know and I didn’t try to judge. Instead, I simply showed how many points each costs and whether or not I thought it was a good deal to book with points.

Bilt points now redeemable for 1.25 cents towards travel (including Disney tickets)

Bilt has added a great new feature to Bilt Rewards: points can now be used to book travel for 1.25 cents per point value through their new travel portal.  This exactly matches the Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s ability to do the same.  And even though I would never use points this way, I think this is a great addition for those who don’t want to bother learning the best way to get great value: by transferring points to airline and hotel partners.

3 Cards 3 Continents Challenge

This past week we published two new posts about our 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge:

Got an expiring Hilton free night certificate? Maybe it can be extended (YMMV)

Hilton app free night certificates list

We didn’t previously think that Hilton free night certificates could be extended past their expiration dates, but Nick… or rather… Nick’s wife found that they can indeed be extended.  It’s worth a phone call.  Or two.  Or three.

Amex Business Checking: Cash out Membership Rewards points without a Schwab card

Usually the only way to cash out Amex points for 1 cent per point or better is to hold a Morgan Stanley Amex card or a Schwab Platinum card (the latter offers 1.1 cents per point cash-out).  Now there’s a new option.  By opening an American Express Business Checking account, Business Platinum cardholders can join in on the fun and cash out points at 1 cent each.  Those without the Business Platinum card are left with the much less attractive option of 0.8 cents per point cash-outs.  In general, it’s possible to get far more than 1 cent per point value by transferring points to airline partners to book high value awards.  And with the Business Platinum card, you can get slightly over 1.5 cents per point value by using points to book flights on your preferred airline (or in premium cabins with any airline) thanks to that card’s 30% rebate on flights purchased with points.  Still, if you’ve had enough of travel and you simply want some cold hard cash, it’s great to know about this new option.

Reviews

This week, Tim reviewed both the Capital One Lounge at Dallas Fort Worth airport, and the Hyatt Regency Calgary (yes, Tim gets around).  Spoiler alert, he gave both thumbs-ups:

Deal of the Week

Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria: Get $250 Property Credit When Booking Via Fine Hotels & Resorts.

If you have an Amex Platinum card and you don’t mind blistering heat, don’t miss the opportunity to stack multiple deals, including $250 on-site credit, for stays at the Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria.  Coincidentally this property also made it into my list of the best new points-bookable hotels in the world!


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler.  Also don’t miss this week’s last chance deals.

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Brian

On the 3 cards 3 continents front, here’s my take on Stephen’s maneuver:

If he found a site that will literally let him upload his $500 Home Depot gift card for $450 instantly, then that’s a legit maneuver. If, however, it’s a site where he has to post his card for sale and then hope somebody buys it, and he’s basing his valuation on what he sees other cards being sold for, then I call shenanigans. If that’s the case, then in my opinion he needs to actually sell a $500 Home Depot gift card for $450 in order to make the transaction legit. That may cost him $50, but such is the price of glory.

Can we get a clarification on the Pepper’s action so I can know if I need to ding him later when I’m voting?

NonRevGuy

100%. Gift card reselling is great, but this is not normal.

I thought the rules were clear that gift card reselling was not permitted. In that sense, Stephen’s gift card resale value should be low as a penalty, perhaps at 0.5¢, to reflect the most likely value a “normal” reader would encounter.

Stephen Pepper

Yep, this is a company where I can upload a $500 Home Depot gift card and they guarantee a 91% payout rate, rather than me listing it on Raise and hoping it gets bought for that rate. I feel like this is a legit way of doing it because Nick has access to the same resale rates (although I don’t know if he has access to the 50,000 points:$500 gift card redemption option from Amex initially).

Seeing as it’s accepted that Nick can cash out for 1.1cpp with the Schwab Platinum card, it felt like cashing out Membership Rewards for not quite as good value would still be a legit option. I have some flights that aren’t bookable with points (well, not with points you can transfer to or buy), so this was necessary for a unique experience.

Brian

Fair play to you then. What’s the name of the site?

Stephen Pepper

https://alignedincentiv.es/ I’ve sold to them for the last couple of years and had a great experience with them.

Stephen Pepper
Brian

FM peeps: I am disappointed at how much you are pumping this Virgin Atlantic through Flying Blue deal without addressing the elephant in the room that most of these awards that people can find on VS’s website are not showing up when people search on AF/KLM.

Peter

Interesting. At present, is this still YMMV depending on route/date or does it appear Flying Blue’s award availability for VS metal has changed upon this VS new award policy?

Brian

Greg, as an example I can look at LAX to LHR the week of 5/20 and see 2 biz seats available everyday. But I cannot find a single seat on AF.

Even a route you mentioned, LAS-LHR, I see availability on VS on 5/21 and 5/22 but not on AF.

Nun

Isn’t Air France known for freezing accounts upon redeeming your first award? They make you go to the airport to sort it out. Good luck if AF doesn’t serve your nearby airport.

Seems worth mentioning unless they stopped doing this.

LarryInNYC

There was word if this years ago but I recently created my account, transferred points, and booked an award over a ten minute period.

Jason Loiterstein

Any chance you start posting on Rulble??

Jason Loiterstein

Sorry, Rumble video