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Where can you fly these days with Virgin Flying Club miles?

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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

regular, albeit modest, Tesco Clubcard and – until a couple of years ago – American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses (and the disappearance of Avios transfer bonuses)

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).

Virgin 787

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.)

Comments (125)

  • Travel Strong says:

    The fact this site historically focused on BA and Avios is never criticised, despite everyone often concurring about how tragic BA are… Yet as soon as the focus shifts to a decent airline for a few articles: *scandal* !

    As a traveller who usually heads to the USA, not Europe – I want to earn/fly/redeem Virgin.

    The BA focus was understandable based on the range of destinations, but Virgin deserves the focus it is getting now on its own merit – whether or not they are sponsoring the party.

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Agreed, and I find the articles interesting, despite the fact they’re no use to me, as VS don’t fly where I live. It’s good to diversify.

      I did get an amazing value redemption on VS a few years back, which cleared out my account (bar a few thousand) and saved me a fortune vs cash prices. I wasn’t overly impressed with VS over BA, having flown the same route with both, but it did the job.

  • TripRep says:

    More Virgin news, regular readers will know I’ve been tracking this for a few weeks even though it’s not got much traction on here…

    VS Pilot ballot news is out..

    Looking to take strike action…
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/08/virgin-atlantic-pilots-to-strike-in-run-up-to-christmas-day

  • Anna says:

    I would potentially be interested in collecting VIrgin Miles because of the MAN routes, however there doesn’t seem to be much information around on how many miles are needed per route and what availability is like. I have a friend who flys VIrgin every year but only ever manages to use her miles to get a discount off economy, which I don’t think is worth the effort of collecting for!

    • Mr Dee says:

      Use the Virgin website?

    • TripRep says:

      PE with miles and an upgrade voucher is a cracking value deal.

      • Alan says:

        Do you mean to upgrade from economy to PE? When I looked before it wasn’t great at all – the fees meant little benefit over paying for PE and earning more miles. Have currently got 4 E to PE upgrade vouchers from MBNA Amex that will likely expire, plus more from Rewards+!

        • TripRep says:

          £400 rtn to Orlando in PE over Xmas is pretty good value for Economy miles & an upgrade voucher.

          • Alan says:

            I guess it all depends when you’re going – I had a look and with voucher it was coming in at around £598 (20k miles + £448) for LHR-JFK return. By comparison I could buy PE for £800 from EDI (~£750 after taking account of miles earned) or go WT+ with BA from EDI for £693 (£600 after taking account of 12k Avios earnt) so it really didn’t represent good value at all – more restrictive re dates and would need to pay extra to get connecting flight to LHR. Obviously when cash fares increase in price then the fixed rewards pricing becomes more competitive but for when I was going to use it I really couldn’t see much benefit, hence why I’ve got so many vouchers going to waste! (although I didn’t get the card for them, I knew up front it was more about the earnings rate!)

        • Kip says:

          You don’t have to travel yourself on those PE upgrade vouchers so you can ‘gift’ them to family/friends rather than let them go to waster. At 20k return to US it won’t clear the balance either.

          • Alan says:

            I guess, although as I say compared to cash they’re not much (if any) saving – also can’t see friends/family wanting to cope with two separate bookings given redemptions have to be ex-LHR or ex-MAN.

    • Callum says:

      The effort of typing a frequent flyer number into a booking isn’t worth it?

      • Anna says:

        There is no point joining up and starting to collect miles if I don’t have a very good idea of what I’m going to be able to get out of it. There are hundreds of articles on line about how to collect enough avios for, say, 2 x CW redemptions (and the level of availability) but I’ve never seen anything which makes me think this would be feasible with Virgin. I have looked at the Virgin website but again there doesn’t seem to be much transparency around the program (for all BA’s faults, they have a good section of their website dedicated to “Where can you avios” take you kind of features).

        • ChrisC says:

          I’m sorry but you aren’t looking very closely.

          There is a very clear table on the miles required to buy a reward flight or to upgrade an existing flight that list all VS destinations on the website.

          Each of the partner airline pages (and indeed all the other partners) states how to earn and/or spend on that partner.

          You can do a dummy booking using the ‘miles only’ options without being logged into your FC account that will show you the miles required for each cabin on the same page which you can’t do with BA.

          On availability does VS offer 4 economy and 2 business reward seats on each flight no it doesn’t but I’ve never had a problem with VS availability (but don’t expect there to be much in UC on the MCO route in the summer).

          There are plenty of blog posts about VS miles – not only on HFP but on other blogs as well. There is a dedicated VS board on flyer talk and a dedicated website – v-flyer – that covers all things VS.

    • Evans says:

      Never had an issue with UC availability you just have be sensible like with BA – leave enough time etc. I’m never looking at school hols though.

  • Charlie says:

    Hi Rob,
    If you’re going to give virgin and the credit cards another plug, can you please confirm yet whether we can get a virgin upgrade voucher on each card?

  • Memesweeper says:

    VS may have some great redemption options but *finding* them is horrible. Searching across multiple different accounts and sites seems to be the only way for partner airlines, and the Virgin site itself is rubbish for finding their own redemption opportunities! The 0.6p discount on flights is the most guaranteed way to be sure to spend the miles.

    • Anna says:

      My point exactly!

    • ChrisC says:

      At leats the VS site shows for it’s own (and DL) flights the miles needed for each cabin in the same page when searching for a miles seat and the availability on each flight in each cabin. I find it far easier to search on VS that on BA.

      I can see that on the flights for my next trip I’m looking at that on the VS 45 there is availability in Y and PE but not UC but on the VS 9 none in Y or PE but there is in UC.

      Partners are a different matter though.

      • Alan says:

        Yes I quite like their grid layout. PITA not being able to get connection from EDI on redemptions now Little Red has gone though – mind you last time I flew back BOS-MAN then got train to Slateford (near Haymarket) for the princely sum of £13!

    • Lady London says:

      When I costed up to use my smallish balance on VS, on a flight to the USA I found the taxes to be far too high and not that far short of British Airways’ greed tax amounts.

      I know Rob did a recent article on where you can transfer Virgin miles to but nothing there really seemed good value. So I am at a loss to know where to put my Virgin miles before they expire.

      • Alan says:

        Transfer to hotel programme maybe best option rather than letting them go to waste?

      • Shoestring says:

        No need for expiry, kept mine alive without flying – since 1999. Just buy something thru their shops portal. Plenty of other cheap points opps – didn’t you go for the v.cheap life insurance deal?

  • Roger* says:

    An early route missing from the list of retired routes is Maastricht, said to be targeting NL/B/D/LUX travellers for feeder flights to VS at LGW.

    What I’m waiting to find out, like others, is how i can use VS miles on AF and KL, hoping those awards will be better value than most Flying Blue awards. For example, will VS have anything similar to BA’s RFS awards?

  • Jim says:

    The new virgin credit card when do the bonus points hit the account, when the first months payment is due (spend target meet)
    Thanks
    J

  • Bee says:

    OT – please what is the link to upgrade from the BA blue card to the BAPP.
    Also if I have already spent over the £10k, will it immediately trigger the 241 voucher?

    Thanks

    • Tom1 says:

      No link – just make a new card application for BAPP on the website and enter your blue card number when it asks if you have any other amex cards.
      Yes it will trigger the companion voucher straight away, but just check the expiry – mine was issued with one year instead of two, and took a while for then to resume it for me.