So you want to use Virgin Atlantic to book a flight on Delta Air Lines. Unlike SkyMiles, Virgin Atlantic accepts points from both Chase Sapphire cards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, and the rates are pretty good, better than Delta’s SkyMiles rates, even. There’s just one problem: Virgin Atlantic’s website won’t search for miles tickets under any of Delta’s destinations!
Using Delta’s website is not an option either. Delta releases different seats to its partners like Virgin Atlantic than it does to its own SkyMiles members. Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks to making the Delta magic happen online.
First, if you need to rack up some extra points to make that leap across an ocean, The Platinum Card from American Express, Citi’ ThankYou Premier Card and Chase’s Ink Business Preferred card all have generous introductory bonuses right now.
Tricking Virgin Atlantic’s Website to Show Awards
It turns out Virgin Atlantic’s online search tool actually can look for Delta miles tickets, you just have to get around a small programming glitch.
Input a city pair that isn’t served by Virgin Atlantic — Los Angeles International (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) for example — and the website greys out the option to ‘Pay with Miles’.
There is a crafty way around this problem, and it’s actually fairly easy to navigate.
First, we need to get that red dot moved over to the ‘Pay with miles’ selector. To do that, we will have to put in a Virgin Atlantic destination. London is obvious enough.
Once you’ve got that pesky red dot squarely next to ‘Pay with miles’, go back up to the destination field and click on the map pin symbol (purple) next to the destination. This pulls up a menu of destinations that can be searched by region, country or simply alphabetically.
Voila! Sydney sticks, as does your Pay with Miles selection. Advance to Search for Flights and you will see Delta flights, neatly arranged in the calendar.
Delta makes a fair number of seats available to Virgin Atlantic on many of its long-haul routes. Economy awards are easy to come by. Delta One business class seats are somewhat more sparse, but when they are available they usually cost less than comparable SkyMiles redemption rates.
Chase, Citi and Amex points transfer instantly to Virgin Atlantic, so once you’ve found a flight that works, move the points over and repeat this method to complete the booking.
Great, but what if my destination isn’t included in that drop-down list?
The weakness of this method is that you’re being given a fixed list of destinations. But what if you want to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book Delta flights to cities that aren’t on this list? New Orleans, for instance?
Generally, any mileage award availability that Delta opens to its SkyTeam partners, like Air France and KLM, it also makes available to Virgin Atlantic.
Air France Flying Blue has a very intuitive mileage search tool, which you have to log in to a Flying Blue account to access. Fortunately, Flying Blue accounts are free and can be set up online in a matter of minutes.
One potential snafu that might prevent you from finding the result you seek is that oh-so-attractive “Looking For Flights Around These Dates” calendar. This is a great tool when you’re looking for Air France or KLM flights, but unfortunately, it still blocks availability on some SkyTeam partners, including Delta.
To find the open Delta seats, you’ll need to search one day at a time.
With a membership to a service like ExpertFlyer, it is possible to view Delta flight availability across multiple days.
Any Delta flight with seats open to Air France should also be open to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members. Just call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — 1-800-365-9500 — to book.
Of course, Air France-KLM Flying Blue is also a Chase, Citi and American Express transfer partner. Sometimes Air France charges lower mileage rates than Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for the same flights. In many cases, like our LAX to Sydney example, Flying Club is the best way to go.
While Delta has made its own SkyMiles program, an American Express transfer partner, increasingly volatile and confusing to use, the airline still releases consistently priced fix-mileage awards to its partners.
Using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book Delta flights remains one of the better values on many routes. Those able to find a 75,000-mile Delta One West Coast to Australia flight, for instance, are enjoying one of the best remaining values out there for luxury travel down under.