Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are a fantastic way to book first and business class awards with its partner airlines. And they’re super easy to earn since they’re transferrable from all the major credit card currencies. While there’s been a lot of coverage for using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book on partners Delta and ANA, there hasn’t been as much said about using Virgin miles for their own flights. (Sanjay just wrote about how to book Delta flights to Africa using Virgin miles.)
Many people assume that because of the egregious fees and surcharges Virgin Atlantic passes on, awards on Virgin metal (their own flights) don’t make sense. However, it pays to take a closer look at long-haul economy redemptions which I think is a valuable sweet spot, especially with the current 30% transfer bonus for American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
Virgin Flying Club Award Charts (For Virgin Flights)
Virgin divides up their own award chart into standard season and peak season. Standard season dates are as follows:
- April 23, 2019 – June 21, 2019
- September 9, 2019 – December 12, 2019
- January 6, 2020 – April 2, 2020
- April 22, 2020 – June 19, 2020
- September 7, 2020 – December 11, 2020
Virgin is fairly generous with their standard season, even going to mid-late June for flights that are priced at that award level.
Here’s the award chart for standard season:
Then, here are the dates for peak season:
- April 4, 2019 – April 22, 2019
- June 22, 2019 – September 8, 2019
- December 13, 2019 – January 5, 2020
- April 3, 2020 – April 21, 2020
- June 20, 2020 – September 6, 2020
- December 12, 2020 – December 31, 2020
Here’s the award chart for peak season:
These charts are Virgin Atlantic-operated roundtrip flights. For a one-way, divide the number of miles required in half. However, it is important to note that the taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges are NOT exactly divided in half. More on that below.
Virgin Atlantic Taxes, Fees, And Carrier-Imposed Surcharges
As you can see in the chart above, Virgin has some hefty fees and carrier-imposed fees (basically fuel surcharges), especially for premium economy and upper class cabins. Tiffany over at One Mile at a Time has a great guide on everything you ever wanted to know (and didn’t want to know) about fuel surcharges and why they exist.
Here’s the lowdown. Expect to pay a lot on Virgin Atlantic fuel surcharges and airport taxes when originating from London. If you’re originating from another airport and flying just one-way, you can significantly save on surcharges and fees. The total amount will vary from airport to airport. However, if you’re looking for a one-way award, that means the column with the fees should not be just divided in half right down the middle. Let’s take a look at flights between Hong Kong and London, for example.
Using Flying Club Miles For One-Way Flights: An Example
Hong Kong to London
A flight from Hong Kong to London only has $330 Hong Kong Dollars or about $42 USD in taxes and fees. And at only 12,500 miles for a standard award, that is an absolute steal, in my opinion. With frequent transfer bonuses from American Express Membership Rewards, it’s possible to fly from Hong Kong to London on Virgin Atlantic for less than 10,000 Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points and $42 in fees right now.
As you can see below, when I pulled up the details of the fare with ITA Matrix, the $330 Hong Kong Dollars exactly matches the fees that the airport charges. Note that there is no fuel surcharge at all, hence why the fees are the same no matter if you fly in economy, premium economy, or upper class.
London to Hong Kong
Meanwhile, the same city pairs but going in the reverse direction from London to Hong Kong will command a much higher charge of taxes, fees, and surcharges. The fee also varies based on the class of service because London charges more for airline passenger duties and fuel surcharges (YQ) for premium cabins.
Need Virgin Flying Club Miles?
As mentioned, Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club is a transfer partner for all the major credit card currencies. That means points from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou can be moved over to Virgin Atlantic. Here’s a few of my favorite cards that can earn you Virgin Flying Club miles:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (Ultimate Rewards)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (Ultimate Rewards)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred (Ultimate Rewards)
- Platinum Card from American Express (Membership Rewards with 30% transfer bonus until July 1, 2019)
- American Express Gold Card (Membership Rewards with 30% transfer bonus until July 1, 2019)
The Flying Club economy award chart for Virgin’s own flights is definitely a highlight, if you can bear the thought of flying economy on a long-haul flight. While economy flights can be had for quite cheap between the U.S. and Europe, it still can be worthwhile to use 10,000 miles (or less with transfer bonuses) to get from say, New York to London plus an additional $100-$200 in taxes and fees.
Overall, it pays to take a closer look at Virgin’s award chart for economy. In the example highlighted above, 12,500 miles from Hong Kong to London is far and away the lowest redemption that I could find between these two major cities (which usually can command high cash prices, even in economy).
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