UPDATED: The AMEX MR 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic is gone.
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 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.
We’re nothing but spoiled brats, aren’t we? OK, don’t answer that.
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 dollars for a supposedly free flight, but I choose to believe those airline announcements when they’re trying to appease us by saying “you have a choice.”
Because it’s true: you really do have a choice, and you’re better believe it.
The 30% Citi ThankYou transfer bonus turns a good redemption rate into a mind-blowing value
Citi ThankYou offers the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. This bonus is valid until October 13.
I’ve written extensively about some otherworldly award redemptions you can find by fortifying your travel 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.)
You won’t be able to book all of these, of course, 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. Just keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t bother to list all countries and cities Delta flies to. You won’t find Madrid or Barcelona, Berlin or Frankfurt, Reykjavik or Rome – actually, it’s easier to list airports you can find on the Virgin Atlantic website than the ones you won’t. Delta’s page is a good starting point because Virgin has access to more Delta award space than other airlines due to the special nature of their relationship. That doesn’t mean, though, that all awards available on Delta’s website will be bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles.
How to search for Delta flights to cities not listed on the Virgin Atlantic website
I wish I could tell you to use Flying Blue to search for your Delta flights, as it was very easy in Flying Blue’s pre-devaluation days, but now their award calendar is screwed up beyond belief.
Just to demonstrate, let’s say we’re looking for a flight from New York to Dublin on March 26, 2019. Why? Because I did the search on the Virgin Atlantic website and know it must be available.
When we search for the same flight on Flying Blue, the first thing we get hit with is this.
Say what? But we know that a Delta award should be available, right? And there is no way you would have to pay 216.29 EUR in taxes and fees for a Delta award flight because there are no fuel surcharges on Delta flights originating in North America. Right?
That’s right. When we do know that this award should be available, all we need to do is ignore the listed price (because Flying Blue will keep pushing Air France and other partners first) and click on the date we need, but even then Flying Blue is hell-bent on giving us false information.
It’s only after we click “NEXT, SELECT FLIGHT” that the search engine relents and shows us the correct lowest-fare Delta flight.
Now, it was easy for me to test this theory because I knew there was a good chance to find this Delta flight, but when you don’t know – do you have enough patience to click on every single date? If yes, then there is a good chance a flight available on Flying Blue will be available on Virgin Atlantic. Otherwise, you might try finding a bunch of flights on the Delta site first. Then call Virgin Atlantic and feed your flights to the agent until you get one that works. It might be the best approach because Virgin’s agents have gotten much better at finding partners awards in the last couple of years.
Use Virgin Atlantic miles to Africa in South African Airways Business Class by transferring 20,000 Citi points
A year ago, I discovered a truly Unicorn redemption option to Africa (which was quickly “reprinted” by many other bloggers and without attribution most of the time). It was huge because you could (and still can) fly from Washington, DC to Dakar for 39,000 Citi points and from Dakar to Johannesburg for another 39,000 points in Business Class per roundtrip! You can fly to Johannesburg on the same plane after a 1-hour stop in Dakar, or you can have a stopover in Dakar – it’s up to you.
Unfortunately, sometime in the last 12 months, Virgin Atlantic began adding a fuel scamcharge to this award to the tune of around $600. You may feel that it’s still a great deal (and it is!), but the magic is gone now. Sad!
UPDATE: DEVELOPING 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 Citi points to fly on Air New Zealand in Business Class between the U.S. and New Zealand. And before you say that Air New Zealand award space is hard to find – that’s true, but hard doesn’t mean impossible. Air New Zealand awards haven’t shown on the United website for at least a week, but I believe it’s just a glitch. Call Virgin Atlantic to inquire.
Use Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA First Class to Japan
This is what people have been raving about for the last couple of years. 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 roundtrip. That’s quite insane – I just don’t know if there is a better term to describe this value!
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.
The Virgin Atlantic credit card (up to) 75,000-mile offer is back
Actually, the offer is up to 90,000 miles, but you only get the last 15,000 after paying the second annual fee, so I don’t count it. The first 25,000 miles are easy – 20,000 miles after the first purchase and 5,000 after adding 2 authorized users. However, to get 50,000 more you’ll need to spend $12,000 in the first 6 months. That’s a lot of spend, which is why I’ve never used this “reincarnation” of the card. Besides, this is a Bank of America card. You can only get 4 of those in the 24-month period. Yikes, but you decide!
But before you do, here is one more tidbit. The Virgin Atlantic credit card is the only card I know that offers Medical Evacuation and/or Repatriation of a covered person. As far as I can tell, even AMEX Platinum doesn’t mention repatriation (even though there are eyewitness accounts that it does pay for repatriation). Now, I have no idea how and if it really works in real life, but it also offers other travel protection benefits like Trip Delays and Trip Cancellation coverage. So if you want a peace of mind for $90 a year rather than $550, this card might be a keeper, I guess.
Can I have a stopover with Virgin Atlantic miles?
No. Not only can’t you have a stopover, but every connection will cost you more miles, and I believe you can’t have more than 2 segments to get to your destination. For example, a nonstop one-way flight between New York and Dublin costs 50,000 miles, but the same flight with a connection in Boston costs 72,500 miles. Under all circumstances try to avoid connections if humanly possible. If not, check whether getting a separate positioning flight would be cheaper, whether in miles or cash.
- If you’re still on the fence about transferring your MR points to Virgin Atlantic, the deadline is tomorrow, September 12!
- 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.
- 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?
This post has been updated and republished to reflect that the AMEX 30% transfer bonus offer to Virgin Atlantic is dead