The 30% American Express transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic is active until 11.30.17, and it’s a much better deal than I thought. This bonus is not anything new, as it has been offered many times before, but I never paid attention to Virgin Atlantic because:
- Virgin Atlantic adds a ridiculously high fuel surcharge to its own transatlantic flights.
- Delta used to have great availability and decent less outrageous award levels for international travel; and it didn’t used to add a fuel surcharge for flights on Virgin.
- It used to be very difficult to deal with Virgin Atlantic agents to get an award ticket on partners.
And here is why the American Express transfer bonus should interest you now.
- You can book several partners on Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles much cheaper than using the miles from the Big Three and their respective programs.
- Some partner flights are now bookable online.
- Delta still has decent availability on many routes.
- A Virgin Atlantic award on Delta costs much less.
- People have been reporting booking success stories recently, which means that the Virgin Atlantic agents have probably received the training they lacked.
- You can fly one-way for 50% miles.
Multiple blogs and forums have emphasized, and rightly so, the great value of Virgin Atlantic redemptions on ANA First Class to Japan. We’ll talk about ANA later, but I also want to point out great VS values that you can use on other airlines.
This “miniseries” will consist of 3 or 4 parts (I think). The first part is about taking advantage of the American Express transfer bonus on Delta. Trust me, after you’re done, you will ask yourself why you haven’t paid enough attention to the Virgin Atlantic program before.
But enough talking points (pun intended). We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve got more than one for you.
Here is the Virgin Atlantic Chart for Delta. Check how much these flights will cost you with the 30% bonus.
How to search Virgin Atlantic
First things first. The Virgin Atlantic website is buggy. Try putting in the airport codes in the search fields, and you might come up with nothing.
It’s not that the search engine doesn’t recognize the airport of Los Angeles (and no, it won’t help if you write the name of the airport instead of the code) because in the next example it does recognize LAX, but not JFK.
Some cities are simply not there. For example, there are no destinations in South America. When that happens, you have to call.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC PHONE NUMBER: 800 365 9500
There can be other bugs, too. I’ve seen the “pay with miles” button grayed out.
Not a problem. Going back and forth in my browser, or refreshing the screen, or starting over will resolve the issue.
Delta One Transcon
32,500 Delta miles vs. 17,500 Amex points one way
You can fly between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco in Delta One for 35,000 Amex points per roundtrip or 17,500 Amex points one way with the 30% American Express transfer bonus. Impossible, you say? Well, almost, but not for the reason you think.
This was the only available award flight from Los Angeles to New York I’ve managed to find till the end of the schedule, but if you do find it – it’s 17,500 Amex points one way with the 30% American Express transfer bonus!
If you think finding a Delta One transcon award is hard enough, don’t even bother trying to find award space to Hawaii and Sydney. There was none till the end of the schedule. But there is some good news. Europe, Asia, and Latin America have good-to-great availability.
Delta One award space to Europe is decent
70,000 Delta miles vs. 38,500 Amex points one way
This is current availability for 2 for New York to Paris in the heat of summer. With the 30% American Express Transfer Bonus, you’ll pay 77,000 Amex points for a Delta One round-trip flight with the 30% American Express transfer bonus. Delta’s own cost is 140,000.
The important thing to remember is that Virgin Atlantic counts every segment (not unlike British). So, while this is a great deal, it’s a great deal for a direct route only. Remember that a direct route doesn’t mean nonstop, as I’ll demonstrate later.
Here is one more.
Once again: don’t use Virgin miles to fly anywhere in the UK, or you will get hit with hundreds of dollars in YQ (fuel surcharge). Ireland is fine.
Delta One award space to Asia is good
80,000 Delta miles vs. 47,000 Amex points one way
Delta flies from the U.S. to Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Korea, and from Tokyo to Singapore and the Philippines. Delta One Availability to Asia ranges from decent to excellent.
Seattle to Beijing for 47,000 Amex points in Delta One with the 30% American Express transfer bonus.
Seattle to Hong Kong for 47,000 Amex points in Delta One with the 30% American Express transfer bonus.
Los Angeles to Tokyo (HND) for 47,000 Amex points in Delta One with the 30% American Express transfer bonus
Delta operates a fifth freedom flight between Singapore and Tokyo on the way to or from Seattle, and you’ll only pay 27,000 Amex points in business with the 30% American Express transfer bonus for this 7.5-hour flight. That flight is about as long as from the Northeast to Western Europe.
And because SIN-NRT-SEA is considered a direct flight (even though they sometimes change planes in Narita), the whole award will still cost you 60,000 SkyMiles, or 47,000 AMEX points with the 30% American Express transfer bonus.
Delta One to South America
75,000 Delta miles vs. 35,000 Amex points one way
The Virgin Atlantic website doesn’t list any South America destinations, so you must use other sources to find Delta One award space and then call Virgin Atlantic to book. Delta flies to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Santiago (also to Peru and Colombia, but for northern South America you can find good values elsewhere).
Remember that Delta’s own website will not be a good indicator of availability. You need to check a partner’s site to get a better chance of finding award space (I suggest Flying Blue / Air France). You’ll pay 70,000 AMEX points for round trip or 35,000 AMEX points for one-way travel with the 30% American Express transfer bonus.
For Delta long-haul Business class, you’re almost always better off booking Delta with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles (except for the UK flights, due to high fuel surcharges). With the 30% American Express transfer bonus, the savings become quite pronounced.
- Transcon: 32,500 Delta miles vs. 17,500 Amex points
- Europe: 70,000 Delta miles vs. 38,500 Amex points
- Asia: 80,000 Delta miles vs. 47,000 Amex points
- Southern South America: 75,000 Delta miles vs. 35,000 Amex points
- There are currently no fuel surcharges (except for U.K. travel)
- Virgin Atlantic agents have become much better at finding awards
- One-way flights are allowed for 50% miles
- You can book most flights online
- Segments add up: must look for nonstop or direct flights
- The website is buggy: might require workaround to find some departure cities
- Not all valid flights can be booked online (ex. no Korea, Latin America, etc.)
To Be Continued: Air New Zealand, Jet Airways, South African Airways, ANA