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How to use Virgin Atlantic miles to fly USA-Europe in Business Class 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 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 (151)

  • NYC123 says:

    Was this a paid for article on behalf of virgin? There is no upside to this at all, and it only affecting US routes is certainly not good news.

    • Bagoly says:

      Has the St Petersburg troll factory moved on to trying to sow discord on travel blogs?

      • Steve says:

        I’ve noticed the negativity on here for a few months now, ‘I don’t know why you would write this’ ‘I’m disappointed by this article’ ‘Someone asked for an article on X in the comments the other day, Rob do you even read the comments lol’

        Not every article is meant for you, if you want content for your exact circumstances and interests go blog hopping and find it yourself or better still start your own blog maybe hire some experts. How much is your subscription to this blog again? stop being so entitled. Politeness goes a long way, if you don’t have the guts to talk to people like that face to face, don’t be a coward and get jollys from doing it safe behind a keyboard

      • Alex says:

        Yes, lets blame Russia for that (as well as the brexit mess).

    • Mikeact says:

      @NYC123. What utter rubbish.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      No upside?

      50k miles and £4 to fly to another european destination you can get to with 4K Avios and £15 RFS.

      Sounds like a great deal to me

      • Bonglim says:

        I’m with TG lotalty

        This sounds like an amazing deal, and I didn’t know about it.
        My last flight to the USA was 125000 avois +£500.
        Even if I had to pay for the taxes out of UK – coming back via a European city – and saving a couple of hundred pounds in the process, sounds like an amazing idea.

      • happeemonkee says:

        If you live in London

        • Rob says:

          Yes, that 40 minute 4,500 Avios flight from Amsterdam is a re drag to save hundreds …!

        • happeemonkee says:

          I was commenting on the 4500 miles and £15 RFS Rob. 9000 and £30 from the regions. Still a significant saving on the Virgin fees

        • Radiata says:

          Indeed – hopeful that being able to book KLM using Virgin miles will prove reasonable in flying from the regions to AMS. Suspect that will not be as incexpensive as BA using RFS however.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          happeemonkee It’s easier to get to Amsterdam than to Heathrow from many UK non-London airports so stop being miserable.

          To join the answer to the OP; I thought this article was extremely useful and I learned something new – so pretty much the definition of what a HfP article should be about! Given that it starts of by mentioning Virgin’s stupidly high fees on reward flights it’s hardly an article paid for by VS!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I can get one way flight to/from BHX for even better price than that if I book early enough

          since I consider 4k+£15 = £55

    • Stuart_f says:

      I totally agree. Paying £4 in taxes is a terrible deal, we should all continue to pay £300 in charges for the same flights. No upside to this article at all!

      Good grief, did the OP even read the text before posting that ill-considered rubbish?

      It’s not often I want to be able to down-vote comments on HfP but today is one of those days.

  • Nate1309 says:

    What is the ball park tax figure if you do choose the UK? Why is it higher in the first place?

    • John says:

      The tax for US to UK is about £4. For the airline-imposed fees, see Saturday’s article.

  • Prins Polo says:

    To someone’s comment under the article about VS’s increased YQ and that this is driven by the “mile rich Americans” – the sign-up bonus on the VS card in the US is now 30k (increased from 20k a few months ago). Higher than in the UK, but definitely not life changing. I don’t think Americans have much interest in a niche European airline (from their perspective) like VS.

    • Matthew says:

      They don’t get the VS card for the miles. It’s the 100,000 plus sign up bonuses on other cards that transfer into Virgin or similar that are easy to earn…

    • Alan says:

      But they’ll just transfer miles from one of the other cards that they can get 100k+ sign-up bonuses on 😉

  • mark heath says:

    Do u know if Virgin will be putting there long haul fees up on other routes like Hong Kong etc in the near future or is just the US routes?

    • Rob says:

      Who knows? BA has higher fees just to the US.

      • GRIMZ says:

        We thought this may be an error from Virgin to US, has it been confirmed it is no error?

        • Rob says:

          If I’m honest, I doubt it is an error – although let’s leave the door open to them reversing it and saying it was ….

        • Lady London says:

          If people stop booking it then they might decide it’s an error.

          Not much chance of that though. Given the other crimes in so-called “taxes” perpetrated by the likes of British Airways and Lufthansa.

          The only thing that will stop them is if they don’t get away with it.

          Funny how the amazing Virgin Atlantic marketing machine did not spring into action on this one…

  • Tom1 says:

    Does anyone know how far in advance you can book Delta with virgin miles?

  • Jonathan says:

    Do I book Delta through Deltas own site ? If so do I have to transfer my Virgin miles to Delta or can I do the transaction by ringing Virgin ?

  • James Lovejoy says:

    It looks like 330 days. As of April 15th you could book out to March 10th.

  • Gael says:

    Good article for us. We fly long haul mostly to Southern Hemisphere but also to US and we only collect Virgin miles. No Avios for us so we skip those articles, but don’t complain about them being here. Each to their own. Thanks Rob. Keep em coming