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.

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.

(There are some stories of Air China unilaterally cancelling Virgin Atlantic award bookings if they suddenly find that a flight is selling well.  I have no personal experience of this, either from myself or any other HFP readers, but I just mention it as a reported potential downside in booking with them!)

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.


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 Atlantic miles from UK credit cards

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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  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.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. 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).

  2. [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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  6. Stuart says:

    JFK-DUB Delta One 50k + $5.60

    • Really?! Ooh, that’s interesting.

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

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

    • 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.

      • 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

        • 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.

    • Yes.

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

    • Of course it will

      • 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?

    • 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.

  9. Thanks for this, Rob. I have over 500k of miles just sat there, with never any use for them. Having just got back from Australia, it was really annoying to find that all “domestic” (which includes going to New Zealand) flights with Virgin Australia can only be booked into economy, not business. ANA is definitely an interesting one, but Air France will be the main one for me and will likely result in me taking out the new credit card.

    • I think the real risk is that the partner redemption chart gets a big overhaul and all the good options go away.

      Would you redeem on AF even if the rates weren’t great and the YQ was high?

      • As I have 1.5m VS miles between me and my wife, probably! Virgin needs the rates to be competitive though.

        You see if differently to me because I have spent quite a lot of time with VFC and VA people recently. They want a loyalty scheme that attracts you from BA, because they know that many people would fly Virgin but don’t due to BAEC. They do not sit around all day looking for ways to make FC worse.

        • The FC people could be forgiven for wanting to encourage people to spend VS miles on VS and DL metal, though!

          If partner redemptions start to get *too* attractive and easy, they get enhanced. No FF scheme can afford to be subsidising large volumes of great-value redemptions on someone else’s metal.

          • Yes and No. Virgin is keen to get KLM and AF onboard because the addition of so many new redeemable destinations will make Virgin Atlantic more attractive for cash ticket buyers.

      • Yes, I would. I’m someone that that pays for First for long haul, so for me it’s an actual substantial cost saving.

        • Chances are precisely zero that anyone will be redeeming VS miles for AF First.

  10. I tried multiple dummy bookings with ANA pot of London and I think Frankfurt. Computer said no every time (despite wide avail on the United platform).

    Gave up.

    FYI, Silkair which is SIA’s regional airline is great for regional flights via Changi. Great wide seats with plenty of legroom. Decent meals.

  11. O/T – is there still a bonus running to upgrade gold to platinum amex?

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