Category Archives: Cheap Travel

Virgin Atlantic Bargains and Current Availability: NEW Amex MR 30% Transfer Bonus: Business Class for 39K Points to Europe, 35K to South America, 97K to New Zealand, or First Class (The Suite) for 85K (RT) to Japan

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UPDATE 12.9.19: The AMEX MR 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic is ON again! The bonus is valid until Dec 28 2019.

This post has been thoroughly revised to reflect the new options and current award space. 

A lot of people don’t take Virgin Atlantic miles seriously and I used to be one of them.

Virgin Atlantic is not everyone’s cup of tea. It adds god-awful scamcharges to award redemptions, and, besides, its Upper Class is not all that awesome. Yes, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK was among my best lounge experiences ever, but up in the air it’s just OK. I did like the service and sexy uniforms, but I found my bed claustrophobic, the TV screen antiquated, and the bar area cramped and uncomfortable. I know, it’s kind of ridiculous to complain about any seat that allows you to transport yourself from one continent to another in a state of a horizontal bliss, but, oh well.

But the thing is, you don’t need to use Virgin Atlantic miles for Virgin Atlantic flights. In fact, using Virgin Atlantic miles on Virgin Atlantic is a huge waste of miles and money. Our British cousins might’ve been conditioned long and hard into doling out hundreds if not thousands of YQ or as-they-now-call-it Carrier Imposed Surcharges but I choose to believe those silly airline announcements saying “you have a choice.”

And it’s true: you really do have a choice.

The 30% Citi ThankYou transfer bonus turns a good redemption rate into a mind-blowing value

The Amex Membership Rewards portal is offering the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic — AGAIN! This bonus is valid until Dec 28 2019.

I’ve written extensively about some otherworldly award redemptions you can find on Virgin Atlantic partner airlines with the 30% transfer bonus. Virgin Atlantic miles can take you almost anywhere in the world. South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South Pacific, you name it. The most difficult part is to make up your mind.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles for Business Class on Delta: 70,000 Citi points to South America, 77,000 points to Europe, or 93,000 points to Asia per ROUNDTRIP! 

You can fly in Business Class to Europe on Delta (and not just in Business, but in a new famous Delta suite if the stars align your way) for transferring 77,000 Citi points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. To Hawaii for 58,000 Citi points. To South America for 70,000 Citi points. Here, take a closer look. (The table only mentions MR points, but that was before Citi offered the same transfer bonus.)

American Express Transfer Bonus

You can fly one-way on Delta for half the miles, but don’t originate your flight in Europe to avoid draconian surcharges

Of course, you won’t be able to book whatever you want, so let’s manage our expectations. Getting a Business Class award on the premium transcontinental routes or to Hawaii is extremely difficult if not outright impossible. Economy awards are easy to find, though.

Europe and Asia, on the other hand, are doable even in Business Class.

UPDATE 12.9.19: Virgin Atlantic has added more world airports to its online database — crossed-out cities above are now searchable.

Just keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t bother to list all countries and cities Delta flies to. You can now find Madrid or Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, or Rome (still can’t see Rome from some cities like Boston), but not all of them, like Seoul, Reykjavik and many others, so you’ll have to call. Checking out the Delta page won’t tell you the whole story.

Start your search here: Virgin Atlantic. Don’t bother with any other links. You can try looking for a bunch of flights on the Delta site first, but in my experience, availability might not match. And don’t fret — Virgin’s agents have gotten much better at finding partners awards over the years.

Please remember:

  • There are absolutely no free stopovers or open jaws
  • Virgin Atlantic miles work best with NONSTOP flights. Every additional segments adds the number of points.
  • Do not use VS miles to fly to or via the UK — you’ll pay dearly for the fuel surcharges

Searching Delta flights on the Virgin Atlantic website is really easy, since they offer a calendar search. It’s a bit quirky, though, which is why just keep it simple, like this.

Current award space for Delta flights

I gave myself a tall order trying to find availability for at least 2 Business Class award seats per flight. That was a tedious manual work. I loved it!

While there are bits of eligibility beyond these itineraries here and there, especially if you’re traveling solo, I’ve found the best award space for the following routes and months.

There is excellent award space for 2 from JFK to Madrid in the heat of summer vacation season. 77,000 MR points per RT.

Boston to Rome: 77,000 MR points per RT.

Even though the screenshot below shows New York to Rome flights, they are all via Boston, which is why you see this weird 72.5K price per one way (remember that whenever there is more than one segment you pay more). So why don’t I show you the flights from Boston? Because I can’t. Rome (FCO) doesn’t show in the VS search engine when you set Boston as the departure point. So you will have to call Virgin Atlantic to book this one. 77,000 MR points per RT.

Minneapolis to Amsterdam: 77,000 MR points per RT.

Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro: 70,000 MR points per RT.

Are Delta One Suites still available on awards?

Yes, some. Availability has gone down since the last time I checked, although a super-flexible solo traveler stands a good chance to hit a jackpot. Delta has installed Suites on the following routes (please let me know if I’ve missed something).

Europe (ignoring London due to YQ scamcharges):

  • Atlanta — Amsterdam (from 05.2020)
  • Atlanta — Paris (from 03.2020)
  • Detroit – Amsterdam
  • Los Angeles — Paris
  • Minneapolis — Paris
  • Minneapolis — Amsterdam
  • New York (JFK) — Nice (04.2020)

Asia:

  • Atlanta — Seoul
  • Atlanta — Shanghai
  • Atlanta — Tokyo (NRT)
  • Detroit – Tokyo (NRT)
  • Detroit – Seoul
  • Detroit – Shanghai
  • Detroit – Beijing
  • Los Angeles — Tokyo (HND)
  • Los Angeles — Shanghai
  • Minneapolis — Tokyo (HND)
  • Minneapolis — Seoul
  • New York (JFK) — Mumbai (nothing till the end of the schedule)
  • Seattle — Tokyo (NRT)
  • Seattle — Shanghai
  • Seattle — Seoul

Argentina:

  • Atlanta — Buenos Aires

Australia:

  • Los Angeles — Sydney (nothing till the end of the schedule)

For more information including the flight numbers for Delta One Suite aircraft check Premium Flights.

I’ve found some suites availability (for 2 people) on flights to Shanghai from LA, Seattle and Atlanta.

Los Angeles to Shanghai: 93,000 Amex MR points.

Make sure you get the right plane. Look for DL89 departing at 10:14AM.

I’ve also managed to find award space for a Suite from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, but most flights won’t be on a “suite-friendly” A350. 🙂 Look for DL160 departing at 5:10PM.

And always keep in mind that all carriers can replace their equipment at any time and for any reason anyway.

 

Use Virgin Atlantic miles in Business Class on Air New Zealand: transfer 97,000 Citi points for flight to Auckland

You can use 97,000 Amex MR points per round trip to fly on Air New Zealand in Business Class between the U.S. and New Zealand. Finding Air New Zealand award space is really hard, but not impossible if you are flexible and can go on a short notice. Air New Zealand usually releases awards within the next 3-6 weeks. Look on the United website and call Virgin Atlantic to inquire.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA First Class to Japan

UPDATE 12.9.19: Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book a new spectacular ANA’s “The Suite.”

This is the Holy Grail of Virgin Redemptions. You can fly to Japan for 85,000 Citi points in First Class from the West Coast and for 93,000 points from the East Coast per round-trip.! That’s an insane value – especially since you can now redeem your award on a newly redesigned ANA First Class cabin, dubbed “The Suite!” The newly reconfigured 777-300R featuring The Suite debuted on a route between New York (JFK) and Tokyo (HND). Look for the flight number 109 from New York and 110 from Tokyo.

Note: not all planes have been retrofitted. To make sure you’re getting The Suite, go to the ANA website and enter your dates. When you see the result, check the left part under the “Details.” If it doesn’t say “The Suite,” you’re not getting it. For example, this flight doesn’t have a suite.

While this one departing 2 days later does.

Here is what you pay in Amex MR points from the West and East Coasts

Virgin Atlantic Miles

The flight to South Pacific you’re seeing here is to Rarotonga — it’s a fifth freedom Air New Zealand flight from LAX

Just do yourself a favor and don’t waste your Virgin Atlantic miles on Business Class travel. You can actually transfer AMEX points to ANA and get a similar value in Business (70,000 ANA miles in low season). The point difference between Business and First in Virgin Atlantic miles is not that big, so indulge yourself.

Let’s Recap

  • If you’re still on the fence about transferring your MR points to Virgin Atlantic, the deadline is Dec 28, 2019!
  • Consider transferring your miles if you’re interested in flying Business Class to Europe, Asia, or South America for up to 50% less than what it costs with other programs.
  • Choose First Class on ANA rather than Business — the cost difference is not that big.
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles on partners, such as Delta, ANA, or Air New Zealand.
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles on nonstop or direct flights only (see this post). Every segment costs separately, so avoid them.
  • If you don’t live in or near one of the international hubs, you’ll have to use a positioning flight.
  • Don’t transfer speculatively for transcontinental U.S. and Hawaii premium flights — the award space is abysmal.

Share your stories of transferring your MR or TU points to Virgin Atlantic. How did it work out for you?

 

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