The coverage of Virgin Flying Club on Head for Points has increased considerably since the site started almost five years ago. This has been driven by a few factors:
generous credit card sign-up bonuses that let you get started quickly,
the Avios devaluation of 2015 which went further than the 2017 Virgin changes and, to be honest …
my own greater understanding of the scheme.
Virgin Atlantic has emerged from a major period of flux. What we have seen since US airline Delta acquired a 49% stake is a refocusing on routes to North America. Routes to points east of the UK have been aggressively pruned. Little Red, the UK domestic airline, was also closed.
I thought it was worth doing a summary on where you can fly these days using Virgin Atlantic miles. This is especially pertinent as you can still – under 3rd April – get higher bonuses on the Virgin credit cards. As you can read here, the free card currently comes with a 10,000 mile bonus and the £140 card comes with a 25,000 mile bonus. Virgin is also happy for you to have both cards.
Here are the current Virgin Atlantic long-haul routes from London (the Manchester list was updated 9am Tue based on comments below):
USA: Atlanta (Heathrow), Boston (Heathrow), Detroit (Heathrow), Las Vegas (Gatwick), Los Angeles (Heathrow), Miami (Heathrow), New York (Heathrow), Orlando (Gatwick), San Francisco (Heathrow), Seattle (Heathrow), Washington (Heathrow)
Caribbean and Mexico: Antigua (Gatwick), Barbados (Heathrow and Gatwick), Cancun (Gatwick), Grenada (Gatwick), Havana (Gatwick), Montego Bay (Gatwick), St Lucia (Gatwick), Tobago (Gatwick), Varadero – Cuba (Gatwick)
Africa and Middle East: Dubai (Heathrow), Johannesburg (Heathrow), Lagos (Heathrow)
Asia: Delhi (Heathrow), Hong Kong (Heathrow), Shanghai (Heathrow)
From Manchester, Virgin flies to New York, Boston, Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orlando and Barbados.
From Glasgow, Virgin flies to Orlando (Summer only).
From Belfast, Virgin flies to Orlando (Summer only).
Missing from that list are numerous axed destinations – Sydney, Mumbai, Vancouver, Cape Town, Tokyo. Go back further and you can add Accra, Athens, Mauritius, Nairobi, Nassau, Port Harcourt and Toronto.
Virgin also has a close partnership with Delta Air Lines, its 49% shareholder. This adds Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia to the ex-Heathrow options. Delta will fly Glasgow to New York in Summer 2017 to add to its existing Edinburgh service.
Redeeming on Virgin Atlantic partners
Virgin has a number of airline partners – ANA, Air New Zealand, Air China, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways and Virgin Australia.
Spending your miles on these partners is not easy. I wrote a special article on the subject here. There are three issues:
some partners only allow redemptions via Virgin on certain routes
you must redeem for a return flight
availability, in general, is NOT the same as that airline offers to its own frequent flyer members or alliance partners
Delta is treated as a partner for redemption purposes. As I understand it, availability is not a problem – you have access to the same reward seats that Delta offers its own members – but you still must book a return flight.
These, then, are the current Virgin Atlantic options if you choose to diversify away from Avios in the coming months.
If you’re tempted to redeem on Virgin, this is my review of the Virgin Clubhouse lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 and this is my review of Upper Class on a Boeing 787.