Today I wanted to take a look at a regularly asked question – “Where can you fly on Virgin Atlantic these days?”
This is especially pertinent as you can still – until 14th December – get higher bonuses on the new Virgin Atlantic / Virgin Money credit cards. As you can read here, the free card currently comes with a 10,000 mile bonus and the £160 card comes with a 25,000 mile bonus. Virgin is also happy for you to have both cards as long as you leave a six month gap.
The coverage of Virgin Flying Club on Head for Points has increased considerably since the site started over six years ago. This has been driven by a few factors:
generous credit card sign-up bonuses that let you get started quickly, especially when the old MBNA cards were available
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. I was at Craig Kreeger’s retirement lunch at The Aviation Club on Thursday, and the Virgin CEO was discussing the difficult financial health of the airline when he joined.
What we have seen since then is US airline Delta acquiring a 49% stake, the upcoming investment by Air France KLM for a 31% stake and 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 although, of course, the wheel always turns and Virgin Atlantic is now reportedly bidding for Flybe.
I thought it was worth doing a summary of where you can fly these days using Virgin Atlantic miles.
Here are the current Virgin Atlantic long-haul routes from London:
USA: Atlanta (Heathrow), Boston (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)
Africa and Middle East: Dubai (Heathrow, ends March 2019), 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 (ends May 2019), Los Angeles (launches May 2019), Orlando and Barbados. Some of these are seasonal.
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, Varadero, Detroit (moved to Delta). 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 Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia to the ex-Heathrow options. It also flies from Edinburgh and Glasgow to New York, and in 2019 will launch Edinburgh to Boston (Summer only).
Redeeming on Virgin Atlantic partners
Virgin has a number of airline partners – ANA, Air New Zealand, Air China, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Airways, SAS (earning only), Singapore Airlines, South African Airways and Virgin Australia, plus of course Delta.
Spending your miles on these partners is not easy. I wrote a special article on the subject here although the exceptional Air China discussed is no longer available at that price. There are two issues to bear in mind:
some partners only allow redemptions via Virgin Atlantic on certain routes
availability, in general, is NOT the same as that airline offers to its own frequent flyer members or alliance partners
One improvement over the last year or so is the ability to book one-way redemptions with most partners. Virgin Atlantic previously insisted on a return flight.
These, then, are the current Virgin Atlantic options if you choose to diversify away from Avios in the coming months or take advantage of the current improved credit card sign-up bonuses to start building up Flying Club miles.
If you’re tempted to redeem on Virgin, this is my review of the Virgin Clubhouse lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 (Anika’s more recent review is here) and this is my review of Upper Class on a Boeing 787.
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.)