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How to use Virgin Atlantic miles to fly USA-Europe in Business for just £4 of tax!

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On Saturday we covered the slightly shocking news that Virgin Atlantic has hiked the taxes and charges on Virgin Flying Club miles redemptions to the United States in Upper Class to £764 return.

The good news is that this only applies to US routes.  The other bit of good news is that you can save £300 in taxes and charges by redeeming on Virgin’s partner, Delta Air Lines, instead and paying £464 return.

There are other exceptional deals to be had redeeming Virgin miles on Delta

There is one trick about Delta Air Lines redemptions which we have never covered on HFP before in detail, and it is this:

One-way redemptions from the United States to Europe (excluding the UK) on Delta cost just 50,000 Virgin Flying Club miles and £4 of tax.  This is for Business Class.

£4, that’s it. Don’t believe me?  Here are a few examples:

Boston to Amsterdam (click to enlarge):

Redeem Virgin miles on Delta

Los Angeles to Paris (click to enlarge):

Redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Delta

It is an exceptional deal.

Surely there is a snag?

There are three issues you need to know about, but they are not deal breakers.

The first point is that you only get these prices on flights TO mainland Europe and Ireland.  Flying FROM mainland Europe and Ireland, taxes are far higher.  A one-way flight from Paris to Los Angeles comes with €291 of tax in Business Class:

Redeeming Virgin miles on Delta flights to Europe

Whilst you’re still saving money flying both legs from Europe, you might prefer to do the outbound differently.  Perhaps a separate redemption from the UK, using Avios or Virgin miles?  As Norwegian prices all its tickets as one-way flights, there may also be value in booking Norwegian Premium for cash (see our review of Norwegian Premium) from the UK and then doing a £4 taxes Delta flight back.  As most US flights are day flights on the way out, Norwegian Premium might be good enough.

The second point is that mileage pricing jumps up sharply if you are connecting inside the United States from one Delta flight to another and then to mainland Europe.  Taxes will remain at £4 ($5.60) but the mileage jumps to 75,000 miles.  Connections should rarely be necessary however.

The third point is that not all European countries can be booked via the Virgin Atlantic website.  This means that a lot of routes can only be booked by telephone.  You need to use the Delta website to look for one-way ‘Delta One’ business class redemptions at 105,000 Delta miles one-way.

Switzerland, for example, is not supported for online booking via the Virgin website.  However, if you can see New York to Zurich for 105,000 Delta miles one-way on delta.com then Virgin Atlantic should be able to book the same seat via their call centre for 50,000 Virgin Flying Club miles + $5.60.   You do not need a Delta SkyMiles account to search reward availability on delta.com.

IMPORTANT: if the Delta website shows a far higher price than 105,000 Delta miles one-way then Virgin Atlantic will not be able to book it.  Only Delta redemptions at the lowest miles level are available to partners such as Virgin Flying Club.

Here is a worked example for New York JFK to Zurich for a random week in February 2020 (click to enlarge).  Remember that I did this search at delta.com because the Virgin Atlantic website does not recognise Switzerland:

Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on Delta flights

The Virgin Atlantic call centre should be able to book you on Saturday 8th or Tuesday 11th when Delta wants 105,000 SkyMiles.  The cost will be 50,000 Virgin Flying Club miles plus $5.60.

Virgin will NOT be able to book you on Sunday 9th, Wednesday 12th, Thursday 13th or Friday 14th when Delta wants 320,000 SkyMiles.

Virgin will NOT be able to book you on Monday 10th, where there is a ‘1 stop’ redemption showing, because the flight connects to Air France in Paris which is not yet a Virgin Flying Club partner

Where does Delta fly to in mainland Europe?

Here is a list, courtesy of clearedlist.net, of Delta’s 2019 schedule to Europe.  There are a lot of options here.  Routes marked ‘Summer’ generally run from April / May to the end of October.  Note that availability will be fairly tight now for Summer 2019.

I have included, for completeness, routes to the UK on this list.  However, you only get the $5.60 of taxes option when searching from one-way flights from the US to anywhere except the UK.

Atlanta – Amsterdam, Barcelona (Summer), Brussels, Dublin (Summer), Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Madrid, Milan (Summer), Munich, Paris, Rome, Stuttgart, Venice (Summer), Zurich (Summer)

Boston – Amsterdam, Dublin (Summer), Edinburgh (Summer), Lisbon (Summer), London Heathrow, Paris

Cincinnati – Paris

Detroit – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Munich (Summer), Paris, Rome (Summer)

Indianapolis – Paris

New York JFK – Amsterdam, Athens (Summer), Barcelona, Berlin (Summer), Brussels, Copenhagen (Summer), Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Glasgow (Summer), Lisbon (Summer), London Heathrow, Madrid, Malaga (Summer), Milan, Nice (Summer), Paris, Ponta Delgada (Summer), Prague (Summer), Reykjavik, Rome, Shannon (Summer), Venice (Summer), Zurich

Los Angeles – Amsterdam (Summer), Paris

Minneapolis – Amsterdam, London Heathrow, Paris, Reykjavik (Summer)

Orlando – Amsterdam

Portland – Amsterdam, London Heathrow (Summer)

Raleigh-Durham – Paris

Salt Lake City – Amsterdam, London Heathrow (Summer), Paris

Seattle – Amsterdam, Paris

Tampa – Amsterdam

What is Delta Air Lines like in Business Class?

I’m glad you asked.  We have a review of Delta’s business class product ready to go and I will get it up in the next few days.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve shown you that Virgin Flying Club miles definitely still DO have value if you are looking to travel to the United States in Business Class – even though it means not flying on Virgin Atlantic!

How can I earn Virgin Flying Club miles?

If this offer has increased your interest in building up Virgin Flying Club miles, or increasing your existing collection, there are a number of ways of doing it.  The main credit card offers for earning Virgin Flying Club miles are:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 20,000 miles sign-up bonus (if you convert the Membership Rewards points at 1:1) plus 1 mile per £1 spent.  No fee for the first year.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  Apply hereReview here.

The Platinum Card from American Express – 30,000 miles sign-up bonus (if you convert the Membership Rewards points at 1:1) plus 1 mile per £1 spent.  £450 annual fee, but lots of other good travel benefits too and refundable pro-rata if you cancel.  Apply hereReview here.

American Express Rewards – 10,000 miles sign-up bonus (if you convert the Membership Rewards points at 1:1) plus 1 mile per £1 spent.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.  Apply hereReview here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard – 5,000 miles sign-up bonus plus 0.75 miles per £1 spent.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.  Apply hereReview here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – 15,000 miles sign-up bonus plus 1.5 miles per £1 spent.  £160 annual fee. Representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Apply hereReview here.

Tesco Clubcard Mastercard – no sign-up bonus plus 0.375 miles per £1 spent (if you convert the Clubcard points at 1:2.5).  No fee.  Representative APR 19.9% variable. Apply hereReview here.

You can also convert Heathrow Rewards points (1:1), Tesco Clubcard points (1:2.5) and various hotel loyalty points into Virgin Flying Club.  You earn Flying Club miles shopping at Waitrose.  Other good offers we’ve covered recently include up to 22,500 Flying Club miles for transferring an ISA to Virgin Money and 8,000 miles for opening a new ISA.

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Comments

  1. Spotted this deal a few weeks ago and booked LAX to CDG in mid July for 50k VS miles (transferred from MR) + $5.60. Seat map is showing Delta One Suites on a refurbed 777 so pretty excited. Hopefully won’t change.

    Combining this with a great OW fare from DUB to IAD via LIS in J with TAP Portugal. £510 pp.

    Still to book internal US and positioning flights (home apt is EDI) but happy with that price in J across the pond.

    Anyone have experience of D1 suites or TAP J? And any advice where best to credit the latter?

    Cheers
    Graeme

  2. Louise says:

    Thanks for the article Rob, we have family in Ireland so travelling from Dub is a series option.

    I will look at maybe using Aer Lingus out and Delta back for a low tax redemption. Now my son is over 2 getting stung £600 each for taxes is not good!

  3. OT but related – now all the YQ costs are going up, what is the situation with upgrading with Avios? Looking at an exEU trip to NYC/back from Chicago in PE for ~£750 on flights where we can upgrade. However, if they then want another £200 each from us as the difference in YQ they can forget it!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      They will want the difference in APD and Surcharges.

      • If they charge the difference in APD and YQ then that suggests £200pp (YQ for WTP is £200pp and for CW is £400pp) then that pushes my WTP fare from £750 to £950pp (plus the Avios needed for the upgrade). I then might as well await the next exEU sale and pick up an outright CW fare for around £1100pp – more expensive, but I receive CW Avios/TP (enough to reach Bronze) and I don’t need to spend an age finding which WTP fares line up with avios availability and actually gives me more flexibility.

    • You also need to factor in what flexibility is worth to you. Redemptions are refundable and changeable for £35. By contrast, UUA flexibility is constrained by the underlying WTP fare rules,. It usually costs around £180pp plus £35pp (because it is also an avios award) plus any difference in fare to change, and nonrefundable cash unless a flexible WTP is booked (which few would). If you can live with these restrictions, then on the plus side you might still earn avios based on CW if that glitch still persists. There is aldo TP if status is important to you. Furthermore, with avios being increasingly difficult to collect then that needs to be factored in too; UUA may become a default option for many going forward.

    • Steve-B says:

      Last month I upgraded LHR-MIA to CW for £100 ea +25k Avios and no change fee. I considered that a better use of Avios than outright redemption (even with 241). You have to do the maths and consider the merits of all options but I find UUA is often overlooked by many.

      • There is no change fee for the UUA itself, however, the £35 fee is applied (in addition to applicable fees for changing the original WTP fare) if changes are made subsequent to UUA.

  4. OT but Delta / Virgin. With AMEX Plat I get Sky Club access. Often go to New York, last time from MAN to JFK. Lounges at Manchester are dire but coming back there is Sky Club at JFK. If I was to fly economy or premium to New York return, to get Sky Club access do I have to book the ticket via Delta so it has a Delta flight code on it? Can I pay with Virgin miles? Anyone had any experience with this?

    • It will have a Delta flight code even if you book with Virgin miles – there are no codeshares in the world of redemptions, everything is numbered from operating carrier. I did this myself last year flying from Atlanta to Washington. Flash your Plat in the Club and you get in.

  5. Qwerty Bertie says:

    OT: Welcome bonus for Amex gold has reduced to 10k MR, but annual fee structure remains the same! Now looking even poorer a proposition for anybody who doesn’t make significant use of the 2x/3x earning rates…

    • Waddle says:

      Wow 10k MR and spend requirement is up to £3k. I don’t think that makes it the best starter card any more.

      • Andrew Foxwell says:

        Wow! I hope they are doubling the earning rate!!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Not a chance.

          Strange move from AMEX since this is one of the few cards they aren’t capped on interchange fees.

          Perhaps they will launch the rose gold with a 20k bonus?

    • Charlieface says:

      Wow that’s really taking the michael. Not sure who they think is going to be enticed by that one. To top it off the ARC cards are now 5k on £2k and 2.5k on £1k resp. They might as well not offer anything at all. On the face of it, the cashback cards are a far better deal.

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