Overlooking Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Can Be Costly

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Update 4/7/2021: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club now allows members to book one-way awards on ANA.
Update 1/1/2021: Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic made a no-notice devaluation to its Delta award chart. This eliminates many of the sweet spots covered in this post.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is one of only a handful of travel rewards programs that partner with four of the five major flexible rewards currencies. Not only does this make it easy to bank a ton of miles, but it's also incredibly easy to consolidate your transferable points for an award ticket.

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We recently shared how you could save with American Express Offering 30% Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic. If you took advantage of the fantastic transfer bonus, three sweet spots you should be considering are offered by Delta, ANA, and Air New Zealand. Overlooking these could cost you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of points.

Fly Delta One Suites to Japan

Delta One Business Suite A350 Window

If you are chasing an award on Delta One Suites on the new A350-900, you'll want to check routes to Asia from DTW or MSP. Using Expertflyer, we've located the following information:

Expertflyer Award Search
Expertflyer Award Search
Delta One saver space
Delta One saver space
Delta One saver space
Delta One saver space

Now that we see the space is available, let's check out Delta. The cash price is fairly high:

Delta One cash fare to HND
Delta One cash fare to HND
That's still a lot of miles!
That's still a lot of miles!

Using Skymiles, you could get a reasonable return when comparing cash to points. However, using Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club Miles, you can get these flights for even less.

A better deal!
A better deal!

You can look at the flight numbers and see that these are the exact same flights! If you aren't 100% sure, you can look into the details to verify.

A350-900 Flying Club booking
A350-900 Flying Club booking

That's just the start of the story, though. These tickets are half the award price, and we haven't even taken into account the 30% transfer bonus. After accounting for the transfer bonus, we really only need 185,000 MR; that's a 295,000 point savings!

30% Transfer Bonus
30% Transfer Bonus

Europe is another reason many people take notice of Flying Club. One of the top destinations in the world is Paris, France. However, for someone like me, getting business class seats for a family of four can be a bit of a challenge. This transfer bonus again comes to the rescue, because $17,000 for flights is more than most people spend on vacations all-in.

Delta One Cash Flight to Paris
Delta One Cash Flight to Paris
Skymiles for a family of four to Paris
Skymiles for a family of four to Paris

Once again, Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club comes to the rescue. Right off the bat, this saves 240,000 points/miles.

Award flights to Paris
Award flights to Paris

That's a fantastic savings, but why end there? Again taking advantage of the 30% transfer bonus, we can come away for just over 300,000 Membership Rewards points.

30% Transfer bonus comes in handy again
30% Transfer bonus comes in handy again

Again, this is a great benefit of flexible points such as American Express Membership Rewards. However, one of the more aspirational uses of Flying Club miles is booking ANA First Class.

Fly ANA First Class

ANA Takeoff Featured

These aren't always easy to come by, but signing up for a free award alert service such as Spencer Howard's award alerts at Straight to the Points might help. Of course, the best way is to find them yourself using Expertflyer. One of the reasons this can be a challenge is that ANA doesn't usually open up much space in first class. Second, these must be booked as part of a round-trip when using Flying Club. However, their partner award chart is one of the best in the business.

Flying Club ANA award chart
Flying Club ANA award chart

As you can see highlighted above, ANA first class is bookable for just 120,000 Flying Club miles (round-trip). Again this requires that “saver space” is available. This is where your Expertflyer subscription is going to come in handy.

"O" First Class saver space on departing flight
“O” First Class saver space on departing flight
"O" First Class saver space on returning flight
“O” First Class saver space on returning flight

These are also bookable on United, which can be useful if you only wish to book one way. However, United charges 110,000 miles each way.

Booking ANA First with United Miles
Booking ANA First Class with United Miles

If you are earning a load of United miles, this may be one of the best returns on a mile-to-dollar basis. That's because the cash cost of this flight is over $21,000 PER PERSON!

ANA First Class Cash Fare
ANA First Class Cash Fare

Now, you could also transfer your MR points to ANA to book, which might be advantageous if you wish to get ahead of other travellers, because they open their award calendar 355 days in advance, whereas Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club only allows you to book 330 days out.

ANA First Class Saver Award Fare
ANA First Class Saver Award Fare

However, recall that the Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club partner award chart above allows us to book round-trip saver awards for 120,000. With the transfer bonus, that's significantly less than 150,000 points.

Transfer bonus saves
Transfer bonus saves

For more information, check out Virgin Atlantic's (ANA partner award) site.

Fly Business-Class on Air New Zealand

Virgin Atlantic miles can help reduce your burn
Virgin Atlantic miles can help reduce your burn

Many traveling on miles and points look for ways to enhance their travel experience. Realizing that 15-hour flights can be torturous, finding ways to obtain access to a bed may make this one of the better award opportunities available (when the space opens). If New Zealand is in your future, don't forget to look for saver space on Air New Zealand (NZ).

Business Class Saver Award Space on Air New Zealand
Business Class Saver Award Space on Air New Zealand

One of the easiest Star Alliance partners to check and book this with is United. Pulling up the award search engine on United, we verify that space is showing as available.

Business Class search through United
Business Class search through United

Non-stop business class can be booked for 62,500 each way using Virgin Miles. With the current 30% transfer bonus from American Express, that's 49,000 each way. The same flight using UA miles is 90,000, plus a 3,000 close-in penalty.

Virgin Atlantic Air New Zealand Partner Award Chart
Virgin Atlantic Air New Zealand Partner Award Chart

For more information, check out Virgin Atlantic's (Air New Zealand Partner Award) site.

When (and How) to Book

There have been a few opportunities annually to take advantage of transfer offers from American Express and Citi, such as this one: 30% Bonus on Citi ThankYou Transfers to Virgin Atlantic. Offers such as this and the one mentioned at the beginning of this post can turn an excellent deal into one that is superb. However, waiting for a transfer bonus may not be in your best interest if saver space becomes available. Transferring points speculatively is also not recommended, as there could be a random and instantaneous devaluation at any point.

While some Delta awards are bookable online, the rest of these are not, and you must call Flying Club to book. However, Flying Club agents have been very friendly and resourceful in my experience, and you can have them verify that the award space is available before transferring your points. Awards can even be placed on hold while waiting for your points to transfer. You can check recent transfer times using Awardwallet's Transfer Times tool.

Call Centers

Flying Club agents can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Listed below are the numbers:

  • USA +1 800 365 9500 or text 97634
  • UK 0344 412 2414 or text at 07481 339184
  • South Africa +27 11 340 3535
  • Hong Kong +852 2532 3000
  • China +86 21 5353 4600
  • India +1-800-102-3000 (toll free), +91-124-4693030
  • Caribbean +1 800 744 7477

Final Thoughts

Overall, Virgin Atlantic is an incredible partner for booking awards. Especially if you can take advantage of transfer bonuses like the 30% American Express Membership Rewards bonus earlier this month. It can help you book your next trip for less and gain super-sized value for your rewards. What are some of the best returns you've received?

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Pramod Reddy says:

    I have called Virgin Atlantic recently and successfully booked one way business class seats on ANA for 2022 travel.

    Phone call hold times are 20-30 minutes and the agents are very helpful with placing the award seats on hold for 24 hours while points are being transferred.

    For some reason, Chase points did not transfer instantly on a Sunday and showed up after 12 hours in the Virgin account. This ended up requiring few phone calls with long hold times, but it was worth it for the long haul business class seat.

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    Too speculative for our interests

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    Thanks for the tips. Signing up now

  • Avatar

    I am giving Virgin a closer look now because of their close coomperation with KLM/Air France and their loyalty program Flying Blue

  • Avatar

    This is great information for us new folks. Thank you.

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    The ANA redemptions are incredible value.

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    I agree that there are great spots with the programme Flying Club but I prefer concentrate myself on more well known programmes.
    Anyway reading this blog I’m learning some more sweet points which other programmes as well.

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    Thanks for your information. I am planing burn all of Virgin Atlantic points next year before devaluation.

  • Avatar
    CHARLES WARREN says:

    This is interesting but I find the it hard many times to find award seats in premium cabins when traveling as a family….

  • Avatar

    I really appreciate the completeness of this article. It really looks like a good deal, especially ANA 1st using Amex Rewards!

  • Avatar

    I love in depth writeups like this. Please keep them coming. 🙂

  • Avatar

    Thank you for providing this info. It definitely will be helpful in future trip planning.

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    Thank you very much for this great info, I did not know NZ was a partner of Virgin Atlantic.

    I hope to find availability to redeem my miles.

    Thank you once again!

  • Avatar

    I’ve been a member with Virgin Atlantic for some time – This is one reward scheme I’ve never had trouble building up the points quite easily.

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    You can also use them for Air New Zealand flights in the South Pacific\Oceana.

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    Wow. So the savings are to be had in 1st and business class seats.

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    I like the Delta redemptions from the USA to Asia definitely.

  • Avatar

    The current AMEX transfer bonus makes this even more lucrative! Thanks for the article

  • Avatar

    What’s the best way to find these routes the VS miles work on DL? In other words, going from HNL to NRT works, but it doesn’t on other places in Japan. At least not that I saw. How do I figure out where else I can go from HNL?

  • Avatar

    Just got a DL flight where they want 320k sky pesos for Delta One. Booked thru VS and after the 30% MR rewards bonus transfer I got it for 47k MRs.

  • Avatar

    I have miles expiring soon. I need to take a serious look at this!

  • Avatar

    Spacious seats and transferrable points… There is a lot to love here, especially if you’re travelling to New Zealand…

  • Avatar

    For those with a lot of luggage, as of December 9, Upper Class baggage allowance on Virgin is reduced from three pieces to two pieces.

  • Avatar

    Wow, the Flying Club is even more attractive than I could ever imagine!

  • Avatar

    How easy is to find availability on those flights with miles?

    • Avatar

      Unfortunately, you do have a few folks chiming in here that finding award availability is tough, from their experience at least.

  • Avatar

    ANA all the way for me, Virgin is so overlooked sometimes.

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    I am so happy that I follow your blog, this post is very valuable.

  • Avatar

    Thank you so much for this great article! ANA first class redemption is really a good deal.

  • Avatar

    VS is one that I have overlooked. It may very well be worth looking into.

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    I’ve been gradually rebuilding my miles balance with their credit card, which earns 1.5 pts/$ spent in general. One of these awards is in the cards for me in the near future.

    PS – You have a typo in this sentence: “Non-stop business class can be booked for 62.5,000 each way using Virgin Miles.”

  • Avatar
    The Arts Traveler says:

    Thank you for great article and ideas. Virgin Atlantic has some excellent sweet spots for value. Another one is flying Delta roundtrip from RDU to CDG in business class. That’s 100K plus taxes. Plus, if you fly roundtrip the taxes are much lower than if you book two individual flights.

  • Avatar

    Nice reminder.

    I do want to point out, using expertflyer to check for space on DL and NH is not ideal.

    EF shows less than what’s available what VS has access to;
    And
    EF shows NH own memebers’ space, which is more than what VS has access to.
    Just be aware.

  • Avatar

    This is interesting but I find the big issue is finding award seats in premium cabins. So sometimes it’s better to spend more points with the operating airline to actually find the seats.

  • Avatar

    Good to know the miles can be used to book Air New Zealand, but I never seem to find availability

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    It’s also costly to overlook Virgin Atlantic Flying Club fuel surcharges.

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    I have used Virgin Atlantic miles to fly to/from Japan on NH first class a few times, and IMHO it’s one of the best uses of miles.

  • Avatar

    one of the best deals out there if you know how to utilize it

  • Avatar

    Thanks. I’ve been slowly collecting Virgin Atlantic miles for awhile without a goal in mind. Now I have a better objective and I’ll keep them in mind for travel. Never thought of them before.

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    This is amazing! I did not know the Air New Zealand was a partner of Virgin Atlantic. Auckland is a place my husband wants to visit and I think that it would be great to do. I will be bookmarking this post to make sure I remember how to do this.

    Am I understanding that I can do this online or do you have to call in and that is why you included the phone numbers?