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Ok, this SPG deal might be a little more advanced than a lot of what we cover, but the benefits are potentially massive – so pay attention!
(2018 UPDATE: Please note that this deal is no longer available. Virgin America Elevate has been fully merged into Alaska Mileage Plan. Also, SPG has been merged into the new Marriott loyalty programme and Singapore Airlines no longer flies between Manchester and Munich).
You may have noticed we write about Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) quite a lot here at InsideFlyerUK, which might seem odd because they only have a handful of hotels in the UK. The main reason we mention them so much is because it can be surprisingly easy to get your hands on decent amounts of Starpoints (SPG’s loyalty currency), and Starpoints are genuinely brilliant.
SPG run regular promotions (including a recent exclusive with InsideFlyerUK) that provide the chance to win Starpoints without even setting foot in a Starwood hotel, as well as offers like Double points for eating at restaurants in their hotels even when you aren’t staying.
It is also possible to transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points from your Gold or Platinum card at a rate of 2 MR Points to 1 Starpoint.
The (main) reason Starpoints are so brilliant is because they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a vast array of frequent flyer programmes, and you get a bonus 5,000 Miles when you transfer in blocks of 20,000.
In other words, 20,000 Starpoints can get you 25,000 Miles with programmes that have great award charts but are otherwise hard to earn Miles in – like Alaska Mileage Plan or Japan Mileage Bank.
Not content with their 34 existing airline transfer partners, SPG just added Virgin America’s ‘Elevate’ Programme to the roster. On the face of it this might not look like big news for those of us in the UK, as Virgin America (VA) are a stylish but relatively small airline that mainly carries passengers on US transcontinental routes, linking up cities like New York and San Francisco.
Virgin America has a revenue-based system for redeeming Elevate Miles on their own flights, which means that how many Miles you need for a flight depends on the cash price. The exact value you get per Mile depends on a few factors, but is always roughly USD 2.2-2.6 cents (GBP 1.55-1.83 pence). This makes Elevate Miles quite valuable if you need to take a VA flight, but that’s not very useful for most of us.
The real value comes from using Elevate Miles to book flights on Virgin America’s partners – Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Emirates, Hawaiian, and Singapore Airlines. For redemptions on partners, VA uses a more traditional system, requiring a fixed number of Miles that depends on the partner, route and class of service.
VA haven’t bothered to release proper award charts, so you need to look up each route individually on the relevant partner page (use the links above) to get the information. That said, when you look up a route, you do get the taxes/fees/surcharges total along with the number of Miles required, which is useful.
If you flick through some of the partner routes, you may notice two key things:
- The number of Miles required is very low for a lot of routes.
- There aren’t any fuel surcharges when booking Singapore Airlines flights (apart from/to London).
Elevate was only added as an SPG transfer partner on Wednesday, so I’m still experimenting and will write more posts highlighting the sweetspots I find as I come across them.
There’s one deal though that I just have to share immediately because it’d be such a fun little trip.
I think a lot of people have a vague dream of trying First Class on a really good airline airline at least once in their life. Collecting Avios and other Miles allows some of us to do that a lot more than once – without the inconvenience of becoming rich first – but it does still usually require an awful lot of Avios/Miles.
Using Elevate Miles though, you can fly between Manchester and Munich in First Class on Singapore Airlines (the flight carries on to Singapore, but picks up/drops off passengers in Munich) for 10,200 Miles one-way or 17,000 Return, and taxes are less than £30.00 each way! (Economy is 3,600 Miles One-way or 6,000 Return, and Business Class is 7,800 One-way or 13,000 Return).
Singapore Airlines use a Boeing 777-300ER on the route, so there’s no ‘Suites’ like you find in First Class on their Airbus A380s, but I think you’ll agree it’s still pretty impressive:
Besides, a weekend jaunt where the toughest decision is whether to opt for the Dom Perignon or the Krug always sounds good to me!
Didn’t you say 7,700 Starpoints?
I did. The deal is even sweeter at the moment because you can get 2,500 free Virgin America Elevate Miles simply by signing up here and referring 4 friends/family members (500 for signing up, and 500 for each referral).