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What are the best Virgin Atlantic airline partner awards you can book with miles?

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There were a few comments in our articles on the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards last week asking about Virgin Flying Club airline partners and the ease (or not) of getting reward availability.  In particular, what the impact of Air France and KLM as partners will be.

I ran a version of this article last September but I felt it was worth running an update as the new credit cards may have changed your view about the merits of focusing on Virgin Flying Club.

Virgin Atlantic 747

As a reminder:

You CAN apply for the new credit cards – and get a sign-up bonus – if you already have the MBNA Virgin Atlantic credit cards (which history suggests will be closed in a couple of months anyway)

The free Reward card has a 5000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 0.75 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 per year

The £160 Reward+ card has a 15000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 1.5 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year

The cards are issued by Virgin Money so it is very unlikely that you will be conflicted due to having any other cards from the same bank

You can apply for the free Reward card here and the £160 Reward+ card here.

I need to tell you that the free Reward card has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.  The Reward+ card has a representative APR of 63.9% based on a notional £1200 credit limit and the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 22.9%.

Virgin Flying Club adds Air France and KLM

Big changes are coming to Virgin’s airline partnerships

Potentially the biggest upheaval in the UK frequent flyer game in late 2018 / early 2019 is going to be the addition of Air France and KLM as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partners.

As I wrote here, Air France and KLM are, subject to regulatory approval (which takes a while), buying a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic.  Virgin, Delta and Air France / KLM will form a joint venture to cover their combined transatlantic routes, sharing revenues and profits.

From a miles point of view, this has some serious repercussions:

You will be able to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France and KLM.  This opens up a huge new range of redemption possibilities.  Virgin Atlantic has become very USA-centric in the last few years but this new partnership will open up pretty much the entire world.  Choosing Virgin over BA will become more attractive when you have such a wide choice of redemptions.

UK flyers who travel with Air France or KLM (which I know is a lot of HFP readers) will be able to credit their flights to Virgin Flying Club instead of Flying Blue.  It is likely that they will count for status, and that Air France / KLM will recognise that status when you fly with them.

I am quite excited – mainly because my wife has 1.2 million Virgin Flying Club miles.

Until then, you have to stick with Virgin’s existing airline partners.

Who are Virgin’s airline partners?

Virgin Atlantic is not in a major airline alliance, despite Delta Air Lines – a core plank of the SkyTeam alliance – being a 49% shareholder.

Despite that, the airline does have a number of airline partners with whom you can earn and redeem Flying Club miles.  These include :

Virgin Atlantic

  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • SAS (earning only)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

…. plus of course its shareholder Delta.

There is no standard partner redemption chart in terms of miles needed and it is difficult to get your head around what is a good deal.  A few years ago, US blog View from the Wing published this piece on making the best use of Virgin Flying Club partner redemptions which is the most detailed discussion I have seen, albeit that Virgin America no longer exists so ignore those references.

From the UK, the best options appear to be:

First Class, Air China, London to Beijing for 75,000 miles return (or Business Class for 63,000 miles) – this is exceptionally cheap

Business Class, Air New Zealand, London to Los Angeles for 75,000 miles return

In reality, you can pretty much forget the Air New Zealand option unless you want a regional flight.  It makes very little award space available from London for Star Alliance members, let alone partners.

You can also forget Singapore Airlines for long haul, because “Redemptions in Business Class and First Class on Singapore Airlines’ A380, 777-300ER and A350-900 aircraft types are not available” which covers virtually every aircraft they fly from Europe.  You can book regional Singapore Airlines flight around Asia which may be handy if travelling in the region.

You CAN book the Air China redemption very easily.   In fact, I booked one myself last year as I wrote here.  Unfortunately it ended up being cancelled due to a change of plans.  Virgin appears to be able to access the same availability as Air China shows to its Star Alliance partners.

A Head for Points reader has just returned from Beijing on this Air China service in business class.  I hope to run a review in the next few days.

Tokyo is also a good choice

There is another good option – ANA, the Japanese airline.

Assuming you are based in the UK, these are the key numbers you need to know:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 65,000 Virgin miles

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 95,000 Virgin miles

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 120,000 Virgin miles

Note that one way redemptions are not possible.

These are exceptionally good rates in Business and First.  For comparison, this is what you pay using Avios for a BA or JAL redemption:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 39,000 Avios off-peak / 60,000 Avios peak

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 150,000 Avios off-peak / 180,000 Avios peak

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 204,000 Avios off-peak / 240,000 Avios peak

The price gap between Avios and Virgin miles is stunning.  Even with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL a better deal to use Virgin miles most of the time when travelling Business or First Class.

Even better, there are no fuel surcharges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin miles.  You will have to pay the usual Air Passenger Duty, Heathrow departure taxes etc.

Anika flew down to Tokyo with ANA last Easter and you can read her review of ANA’s Business Class product here.  It is good.

But in general …..

There is a Flyertalk ‘sticky’ thread dedicated to the problems of booking partner redemptions on Virgin.  It is not an easy process.

Apart from Delta redemptions – which are easy to get as long as Delta is opening seats to its own members – Air China does seem to be your best bet in terms of actually getting a seat.  There are also good reports of booking seats on ANA (there is a dedicated Flyertalk thread on that).

You will have a better chance of getting flights on other partners if you are looking for regional flights rather than long-haul tickets from the UK.

Conclusion

If you choose to use the new credit cards as a springboard to building up some Virgin Flying Club miles, there are some interesting opportunities for booking redemptions with partners.  In truth, though, it is often a confusing mess – especially in terms of being able to actually book – and the arrival of Air France and KLM as partners will hopefully be a step change.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (77)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • sam wardill says:

    Off topic but related: I ended up researching many, and booking one, Star Alliance redemption on Miles and More last week. I found the booking process to be excellent now that you can book Star Alliance flights directly. There were lots of options in all classes from lots of different airlines (far more redemption availability than I could see in One World via Qantas & BA). The cost in miles was much lower than One World (I booked Business from London to Bangkok with Thai for 62,000 one way).

  • Matt says:

    [quote]Even better, there are no fuel surcharges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin miles. You will have to pay the usual Air Passenger Duty, Heathrow departure taxes etc.[/quote]

    I am looking at NTC-NRT-IAD in F class on ANA, using VA miles for 2 of us. On a purchase basis, the taxes+ charges are, from ANA’s website GB£347.60. When I ask VA for the availability, I was told the taxes and charges were £514.42.

    2 questions – 1) is it because its not an LHR redemption and 2) Why the increase in charges for taxes etc on a redemption?

    • Matt says:

      Sorry NTC = NYC. It’s early!

      • Alan says:

        Something I was slapped down for recently (even though, in reality, everyone knows what you actually mean)…..
        VS = Virgin Atlantic
        VA = Virgin Australia

  • James says:

    I do need to reconsider my collection & redemption strategy in light of all the ‘enhancements’ BA and Avios have been making so this is all pretty good news.

  • Kip says:

    After the AF/KLM merger is it likely that Virgin redemptions will be allowed just on those airlines or the rest of Skyteam as well?

  • Adam says:

    How has your wife built up 1.2m Virgin miles?! Perhaps an article on that??

    • Alex says:

      You mean you haven’t put £120,000,000 through your AMEX??

      • roberto says:

        Your maths is off.. you mean 1.2m not 120m however if its amex then its “only”£600,000 of course but could be as low as £300,000 if on virgin flights or holidays.. easy really !!!

        However i guess many are referral bonuses.

    • HAM76 says:

      If you fly internationally for business in UC, that shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish within a few years. I managed this on BA with just a few flights per year to the US in CW and F, and I‘m not working on a high paid City job like his wife is.

  • Stuart says:

    JFK-DUB Delta One 50k + $5.60

    • Kathy says:

      Really?! Ooh, that’s interesting.

      Is it possible to get taxes that low into LHR, or does it only work to DUB?

  • shd says:

    Can you book partner redemptions with Virgin miles starting from mainland EU, to avoid paying APD?

    • Rob says:

      Air China is specifically only from London. Others should be ok but in reality not many options due to route networks. Delta EU to US is clearly a good one.

      • Grimz says:

        I think you can only book returns with Delta?

        • Stuart says:

          one way is allowed now. I have this flight booked for June

          If you fly US-EU the tax is $5.60 but if you fly US-UK the tax is $xxx

          no stopover allowed so if you are heading to the UK it’s a good option to tag a £10 Ryanair job onto the end of it

        • Kathy says:

          In fact by the look of it you should book them as 2 one-ways – the tax works out far less than a return due to it only being $5.60 from US to EU.

          It’s incredibly hard to get them to show up online, though! The booking system won’t show them at all to start with, you have to look for flights from the UK first and then once you have miles results showing up for that use ‘refine search’ to change the cities and search again.

    • Matt says:

      Yes.

  • Alan says:

    Interesting to see whether the merger will result in a big devaluation

    • shd says:

      Of course it will

      • Alan says:

        Yeah, that’s my main concern about the tie up with KLM. Looks good from a route expansion point of view but suddenly you find your miles are worth way less. Maybe that’s how they reckon they can be so generous with the new VS card?

    • Rob says:

      Nothing changes here, and the new Flybe scheme will effectively create a 2nd UK Avios scheme which in many ways puts us back to where we are now.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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