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As part of the recently announced wide-ranging changes to the Virgin Flying Club programme, some premium redemption costs soared. However partner redemptions remain unaffected, and it is with one of these partners that significant savings are possible.
In the great analysis piece the Joe did a few days ago, he teased out the major changes that will affect all those that are members of Virgin’s Flying Club. I tend to earn little or no airline miles from actually flying. So my focus on the announcement is purely in terms of the cost of redemptions.
In broad terms economy redemptions reduced significantly. However upper class redemptions increased substantially. Dial in the fact that Virgin are now adding in a premium for flying during a peak time, and some redemptions now cost 55% more on the new system, compared to the old one.
Here is the new award table that takes effect from the 16th of January.
US region definitions – Northeast: Boston, Newark, New York JFK, Washington DC. Midwest: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit. South: Miami, Orlando.West: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle.
Delta is a Partner
Delta Airlines is a Virgin miles partner airline. This means you can redeem your Virgin miles on Delta flights. Taking a look at the current table for redeeming on Delta shows some stand-out value to the USA compared to redeeming on Virgin planes.
The top line tells you that UK-USA redemptions are 40K economy, 90K Biz/first. That’s the same whether you are flying to Boston or Seattle. It’s also the same year-round. Virgin’s table on the other hand, segregates USA redemptions into zones, and also charges more during peak times.
It’s not hard to see some obvious savings. Atlanta/Detroit on Virgin during a peak time in upper class requires 115K miles. Fly in biz on Delta, and it’ll cost just 90K, a saving of 25K Virgin miles.
A Virgin upper class seat to Seattle at an off-peak time costs 135K miles on Virgin, but only 90K on Delta in biz. Do the same flight at a peak time and you’ll save a massive 65K miles by flying on Delta.
The small print
Before you go rushing off to do those Delta redemptions, there are some things to bear in mind. Firstly, Delta awards booked using Virgin miles are return only, there are no one-way awards. Secondly, you can’t book these rewards online, you have to phone the Virgin call centre. Finally, I have no experience as to how easy or difficult it is to get these Delta awards. Also, I’m sure many will tell you that Virgin’s upper class experience is far better quality that flying in Biz/first on Delta. However, is it 65,000 miles better ? (in the case of Seattle).
Also worth noting that Tesco have a 10% conversion bonus to Virgin Atlantic at the moment. So if you are tempted, it might be an idea to do a transfer before the 13th of November, when that offer expires.