US airline Delta, 49% shareholder in Virgin Atlantic, gave its Delta SkyMiles reward scheme a major shake-up on January 1st. I won’t go into the details because it isn’t of much interest to flyers in the UK, but the one upside (against many downsides) from the changes is the introduction of one way redemptions.
Let me tell you why this is good news for UK flyers. Delta adds fuel surcharges and extraneous fees to redemptions which start outside the US. Redemptions which start inside the US have always been free of taxes. However, the requirement to book a return flight – starting in the US – made it very difficult to take advantage if you lived in the UK.
Now that Delta allows you to book one-way redemptions, the game has changed. You can book a one-way redemption on Virgin Atlantic from the US to the UK using Delta SkyMiles and pay no taxes or charges.
Let’s take a look at a few one way redemptions on Virgin Atlantic to show you what I mean. Note that Delta seems to have exactly the same availability for Virgin Atlantic redemptions as you would get if you used Virgin Flying Club miles.
Here are two costed examples of flights on Virgin Atlantic from the US to London:
New York to Heathrow – economy
17,500 Virgin Flying Club miles + $135
30,000 Delta SkyMiles + $5
New York to Heathrow – Upper Class
40,000 Virgin Flying Club miles + $420
62,500 Delta SkyMiles + $5
The difference is startling. When flying FROM the US to the UK, whilst you need more SkyMiles than Flying Club Miles for the same redemption, the charges are virtually nothing. The best deal is in Upper Class where, in my example, you are saving over $400.
However, if you look at some Virgin Atlantic redemptions starting outside the US, the picture is completely different. The Delta redemptions are terrible value in all classes:
Heathrow to Atlanta – economy
17,500 Virgin Flying Club miles + £182
30,000 Delta SkyMiles + £235
Heathrow to Atlanta – Upper Class
40,000 Virgin Flying Club miles + £345
62,500 Delta SkyMiles + £361
Heathrow to Dubai – economy
19,250 Virgin Flying Club miles + £173
25,000 Delta SkyMiles + £213
Heathrow to Dubai – Upper Class
40,000 Virgin Flying Club miles + £335
42,500 Delta SkyMiles + £335
If you live in the UK the easiest way of earning Delta miles is from an American Express Membership Rewards transfer at 1:1.
This is definitely a strategy worth bearing in mind if you have a decent pile of Membership Rewards points. You could choose to use your Amex points for a one-way flight FROM the US on Virgin (booked with Delta miles to wipe out the fuel surcharge) and then use Virgin Flying Club miles or Avios to book the outbound.
As a SkyTeam partner, you can earn Delta SkyMiles from flights on Air France, KLM, Korean etc. You can also credit Virgin Atlantic flights to Delta. Delta is a Starwood Preferred Guest partner if you have a decent stash of SPG points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles? Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic, Little Red and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)