Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club: How to spend points

Virgin has some of the lowest point redemptions in the sky, making them a favourite for many!

 

Virgin Atlantic, a newly minted member of the SkyTeam alliance, has plenty to offer in the way of spending miles with their Flying Club loyalty program. The program offers some of the cheapest long-haul redemptions on the market, although they come with hefty surcharges, and its growing list of partners means you’ll never be short of deals. Here’s what you need to know about spending points with Flying Club! In this article, we’ll cover the best redemptions with Virgin Atlantic, but stay tuned for the best partner deals as well.

When booking with Virgin Atlantic, the airline has peak and standard seasons, varying the required miles. Traveling during peak dates usually requires almost 50-100% more miles than a standard date, so be sure to double-check the airline’s calendar.

 

Best for one-way redemptions to the US (off-peak)

As a frequent Flying Club user, I have noticed that you can get the best deals when flying one way into London Heathrow (LHR), especially from the US. Full-service carriers, including Virgin, like to charge premiums for one-way services, but this isn’t the case for Flying Club redemptions. Here are the peak and standard season dates for reference.

On standard dates, you can book Virgin Atlantic services from New York, Boston, and Washington DC to London for just 10,000 points plus roughly $150 in taxes and surcharges in economy. Flights from the Southeast (Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Tampa) will cost you 12,500 points + $150, while services from further West (Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle) cost 15,000 miles + $150.

 

However, these prices rise dramatically if you travel during peak times, which is just over half the year for non-Caribbean destinations. East Coast destinations rise to 20,000 points one-way, the Southeast to 22,500 points, and the West Coast to 25,000.

 

The reason to exclude services from London is the high taxes charged, namely due to Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the UK. While flights only require 10,000/12,500/15,000, the taxes and surcharges rise to roughly £220 ($270) one-way. This means an off-peak roundtrip costs 20,000/25,000/30,000 miles + $420, which can be beaten by cash fares depending on the time.

 

Assuming each mile is valued at 1.1 cents ($0.011 USD) (per MoneyGeek), this would mean redemptions cost $620-$720, which only makes sense if you can’t find cheaper cash fares. However, you might still be able to find an acceptable redemption price for a one-way direct service, which is far more expensive if booked with cash.

 

Asia and beyond

 

While its bread and butter is transatlantic, Virgin also has plenty of flights to the Middle East, China, and India, especially following its recent network expansion. One-way prices from New Delhi and Mumbai are particularly lucrative on off-peak dates. Economy will set you back 10,000 points + ~$131, premium economy 17,500 points + ~$228, and Upper Class (business) for 37,500 + ~$424. For flights from London, taxes increase to $240/$425/$641, and on peak dates, the miles required increase by 10,000 in each cabin.

 

Virgin Atlantic’s cheapest redemption is Tel Aviv, which starts at just 9,000 points one-way to London. Premium economy and Upper Class cost 16,000 and 28,000 points for the 5.5-hour service, with taxes add only $70 for economy and premium and $109 for Upper.

 

Another great deal is flights from Shanghai to London, which comes in at 12,500/22,500/57,500 with taxes at $122/$220/$241. This is Virgin’s cheapest long-haul Upper Class redemption given the low taxes, and even flights from London only cost $256/$445/$510 (same miles required). During peak times, miles increase by 10,000 in each cabin.

Upper Class to the US from 47,500 miles

 

One of the most exciting redemptions for any frequent flyer will be into Upper Class, especially on the airline’s A350 and A330neo cabins. To the US, Virgin charges 47,500 miles (off-peak) from the East Coast and Southeast and 67,500 from the West Coast. However, taxes on these is substantially higher at £627 ($780) from London and $876 from the US. Therefore, you’re paying roughly $1,200-$1,300 (assuming 1.1 cents per mile), which is still reasonable compared to a cash fare. However, the inability to offset some of the airline surcharges with miles is disappointing.

 

As a point of comparison, British Airways charges 50,000 Avios + £425 ($527) from London to New York in business class. However, passengers have the option to redeem up to 80,000 Avios and reduce the cash burden to £175 ($217) if they wish. This may not be the best value, but it does come out cheaper than Virgin’s price (assuming each Avios is worth one cent/$0.01 USD).

 

Roundtrip tickets cost 95,000 + $1,650 from the East Coast and Southeast and 135,000 + $1,650 from the West Coast. While these aren’t the best value by any means, the lower mileage means it can be accessed more easily than with other airlines.

 

Premium economy from 17,500 miles

 

Virgin Atlantic has a compelling premium economy product, especially on its 787 and A350s, and prices are reasonable too. From the US (East Coast), you can redeem 17,500 points for a one-way flight; however, taxes are relatively high at $425 ($480 out of London). However, from India, the miles remain the same, while taxes fall to $227 (or $450 if flying from London Heathrow). Similar prices can be found on services from the Caribbean to London.

 

While the high taxes make the route unattractive from the US on off-peak dates, there is usually plenty of award availability in this cabin, so you can bag a seat even during busy travel times. From Delhi, Mumbai, Shanghai, Lagos, Tel Aviv, and other destinations, premium economy is an excellent choice for flying to London.

 

Availability is key

 

In terms of redemption value, using Flying Club for economy seats is a good deal but only average for premium and Upper Class. That said, Virgin has some of the best reward availability in the skies. Seats regularly open up in the days leading up to a flight, and I have routinely booked transatlantic seats 24 hours before travel after the carrier added unsold inventory. Considering all of these benefits, the program should be on the radar for anyone living close to a city in its admittedly smaller network

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *