Back in 2017, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club announced it would be making changes. I don’t know about you, but whenever I get emails like this I always shudder. I know that cheery subject line is an attempt to get readers excited about some “terrific” new update. In reality, the news usually couldn’t be more opposite.
Virgin Atlantic negatively changed paid flights and mileage earnings. Virgin did what a lot of other airlines, like United, Delta, and American have done, which is reward the highest spenders with supercharged mileage earning potential. While travelers who buy cheap economy seats (A.K.A. most travelers) will see the miles they earn take a big hit. This stinks.
To be honest, though, I’m not concerned with earning Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer status. Nor am I terribly concerned with earning Virgin Atlantic miles exclusively. I have transferable credit cards which allow me to earn miles for a variety of airlines.
For this post, I’m going to focus on how to use Virgin Atlantic miles to Europe for terrific value and show why I’m actually not that disappointed with some of the changes.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: The Basics
- Virgin Atlantic is not a member of a major airline alliance. However, it does have airline partnerships. Virgin Atlantic partners include ANA, Delta, Singapore Airlines, Hawaiian, Air New Zealand, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, Jet Airways, Air China, and Virgin Australia.
- Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner for all 4 major transferable points travel-rewards programs, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, Citi ThankYou Points, and American Express Membership Rewards. This means Virgin Flying Club miles are easy to get!
- Watch out for high taxes and fees! While you’ll see below I think the fees are sometimes very worth it, Virgin Atlantic is notorious for high award travel fees.
- American Express and Citi typically offer 25%-30% Virgin Atlantic transfer bonuses a few times a year. For this reason, these are the best points to use for Virgin Atlantic awards.
How I’ve used Virgin Atlantic Miles to Europe
In 2016, I used Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for flights to Europe twice. This was with the old Virgin Atlantic award chart. I’m sharing just to give you some examples. Keep reading for how to use Virgin Atlantic miles now.
- I traveled solo on a one-way ticket to London this summer before continuing on to Romania, Stockholm, and Swedish Lapland.
- I also booked an absolute steal of a girls’ trip to the European Christmas Markets in Prague and Munich with my mom and sister for December by first flying to London one-way on Virgin Atlantic. Then, for just a few thousand British Airways Avios, we flew from London to Prague.
I took advantage of simultaneous promotions with Virgin Atlantic and a 30% Amex transfer bonus for flights across the pond for my mom, sis, and me!
Yes, there were taxes and fees on the one-way economy flights of about $135 each. But, for just 10k Amex MR points per person from NYC, it was our chance to all get to the Christmas markets together.
Booking a one-way, though, is essential.
The value of a deal like this is lost on roundtrip flights from the U.S. to London. The airline fees in both directions combined with the U.K.’s hefty departure tax back to North America is too much out of pocket. You’d be better off booking a cheap cash flight and saving the miles for another trip.
For example, you could visit London and take the train or a cheap short-haul flight out of the U.K. to avoid or minimize departure fees. Then, you’d use different miles with an airline that has minimal taxes and fees, like United or American, for a one-way back to the U.S. Flexibility is key in order to be a successful travel hacker!
Virgin Atlantic Miles to Europe: Current Award Chart
Virgin Atlantic’s award chart is broken up into Standard and Peak awards and divided by class. Of course, you’re looking for Standard availability for the best pricing. And luckily, as much as 2/3 of the year counts as Standard.
The Virgin Atlantic award chart has 4 different U.S. regions.
- Northeast: New York JFK, Newark, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
- Midwest: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit
- South: Miami, Orlando
- West: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle
The Virgin Atlantic award chart below shows roundtrip award prices. But one-ways are the way to go to avoid high taxes and fees! One-way awards are half of the number of miles shown.
To/From the U.K.
Premium Economy (Standard)
|Northeast: New York JFK, Newark, Boston, & Washington, D.C.||
|Midwest: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit||
|South: Miami, Orlando||
|West: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, & Seattle||
Sorry luxury travelers, upper-class awards between the U.S. and London come with crazy high taxes and fees and eliminate any value with the overall redemption.
The real gem here??
From the Northeast, it costs just 10k Virgin Atlantic miles + about $148 in taxes in fees for a one-way to London. And the even better award is a Premium Economy seat for just 17.5k Virgin Atlantic miles + about $183 in taxes and fees.
And, what about that transfer bonus?
To further justify the money spent on taxes and fees, time your points transfers from Citi or Amex during one of their 25%-30% transfer bonus periods for a one-way London economy redemption UNDER 10k miles!
And, I’d certainly pay 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles (taking into account the 30% transfer bonus) + $183 in taxes and fees for a Premium Economy seat to the U.K. from NYC!
Aside from a $99 WOW Air or Norwegian one-way ticket to Europe, this Virgin Atlantic award across the Atlantic is a stand-out way to use miles and points as an access point to Europe. Not to mention, it includes at least 1 free checked bag (2 for Premium Economy), seat selection, and a meal, none of which are included on a budget airline basic fare.
Remember, if the U.K. isn’t your final destination, BA Avios are great for short hauls within Europe. For as little as 4k Avios, you could be in Prague or skiing the Swiss Alps!
How to Book a Virgin Atlantic Award Flight to Europe
So, would you like to book a Virgin Atlantic award to Europe?
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