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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. Gromit says:

    It is inaccurate to generically describe the arbitrary cash payment required by airlines on reward flights as ‘tax’ of course, though I’m sure it suits the airlines if everyone carries on thinking of it that way.

    In many (most….?) cases the genuine taxes and security fees etc are much more modest than the cash payment required and it seems to me the rest is mainly just a ‘because we can get away with it’ levy by the airline.

  2. OT Tesco Mobile offer

    I ordered the free sims from the tesco mobile website
    Bought a £20 top up voucher from a tesco store

    Opened sim, made a test outgoing call and incoming calls. confirmed still had the 20p credit on the sims.

    called 282 and gave my club card number.

    Then called 4444 to add the £20 top-up.

    Never got any texts referring to 2000 clubcard points. and 5 days later, only saw 20 points appearing on my tesco activity statement?

    What’s wrong? any missing steps?

    Do I need to manually convert the £20 credit, to a rocket pack -or is this automatic?

    • Although I manually purchased Rocket Packs with the £20 credit, I understood it would happen automatically based on the content of a couple of text messages received once I had topped up.

      In general, it seems to be taking c. 9 days for bonus points to credit to accounts after Rocket Packs have been purchased.

    • not automatic, you need to use the credit to buy a rocket pack

      • I’ve just found the text I received after topping up my account with £20

        “We’re just adding your Rocket Pack & it’ll be ready for you to use in the next 2 hours. We’ll let you know when it is.”

        • Yes, I got this text.

          Also saw some notes that with these specific sim cards, your first top will automatically convert to a rocket pack.

          My question really is – now that I can see just 20 points on my tesco activity, will another 1980/2000 points arrive as a bonus sometime this week?

        • Spurs Debs says:

          I’m also missing 2000 points went thru fine first time and on my other account, I’m going to ring them.

    • On my first one the extra 2000 appeared 6 days after the 20 points. Hopefully another 2000 will appear in a couple of days. If you download the Tesco PAYG app it should show whether you have a Rocket Pack or not?

      • Cheers!

        If a £20 up can be exchanged for 60 of uber or hotels.com – is it worth going wild on this offer? (assuming have multiple club-card accounts etc)

        • Yes, if there are two people in your household each with their own account. You can get £240 worth of credit for £80 spend. Saving 66.67%. I consider that a great deal. And there is a degree of flexibility as you can exchange for Avios/Virgin/hotels.com/Uber.

        • can my family collect the Clubcard points on their own account, and then redeem them for Avios/virgin points to be credited to my BAEC/VS account?

    • Peter K says:

      It took exactly 9 days for the bonus points to credit to my account.

      • Yes, all mine took exactly 9 days. No problems so far using process Nick outlined in OP. Expecting 5 x 3k tomorrow. Will post a comment if they arrive as usual or if problems encountered.

    • Mr Dee says:

      If you ordered the rocket sim then once you add your Clubcard and a £20 voucher, you should get confirmation texts and it should purchase automatically, don’t see there being an option to manually purchase it.

  3. OT: I’m flying BA in Club World from LHR to NRT on 9th May. I still can’t choose a meal, it just says “You will be served complimentary food and drinks on-board. Unfortunately, ordering your meal in advance is not available for this flight.”
    Previously I’ve been able to order pretty much 30 days before, it’s now 24 days to my flight. Anyone experienced this before? Is it just BA being a bit slow to load choices?

    • I had that flying to SIN in 1st – YouFirst eventually sorted it once they worked out that preordering was even a ‘thing’! TBH compared to the likes of SQ I think BA haven’t implemented this option particularly well so would not be surprised if it wasn’t working properly.

  4. LAX – AMS is sensational value.
    I’ve never chased Virgin miles but anyone could get 50k in fairly short order and it illustrates the usefulness of keeping MR points in that form rather than just transferring to Airmiles.

    • A possibility and perhaps it would make sense for some to buy miles with a Virgin card when they offer a purchase miles bonus.

  5. Lev441 says:

    Flew delta one a couple months back for the first time. There was no availability at the time to European destinations but it was £100 cheaper than using virgin (using miles) so I gave it a go…

    I much preferred the seat and the staff were amazing… food I wasn’t actually that keen on but I ate plenty in the clubhouse before and also at the arrivals lounge so I maximised my sleep time on the plane.

    • Agreed. We’ve done 3 Delta One flights and enjoyed them all. The only downsides were that we had to move from the JFK Clubhouse to a Delta lounge as our Delta flight was an hour after the final VS of the day, and their serving of spirits from miniatures feels a bit mean (although they do keep them coming if you want them).

      The main courses of the meals were pretty airline standard, but they do feed you well with starters and desserts… 🙂

  6. LewisB says:

    OT no bits: Has anyone used the Executive Club Multi-currency Cash Passport™ that’s being offered on BAEC?

    Collect one Avios for every £1 loaded or reloaded onto the card (minimum £50 spend).
    A safe, convenient way to manage your travel money.
    A reloadable, pre-paid currency card from MasterCard®.
    Holds up to 10 global currencies.
    Top up anywhere in the world online, over the phone or at a bank

    https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/executive-club/collecting-avios/travel-extras

  7. Totally OT
    Got a Uber credit via Tesco CC Cant get it to work Shows as Uber credit but get error when requesting ride it says payment method not allowed.

    Any ideas

    • Are you using it in the UK?

      • Yes it works if I reset to credit card. Uber CS have been useless.

        • But you only need to have it set to credit card and in the UK it automatically deducts from the credit balance (at least it does for me, I’ve never tried to manually select it)

    • worked for me last month !

      • Brian Stevens says:

        I had this problem earlier this month. It seems that if the estimate of trip is above the credit balance, it won’t let you use credit. So I had to book using a credit card, in the end the trip was less than the credit on the account and it debited the credit not the credit card.

  8. Or you can book with Flying Blue miles anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe (including UK) for around 50-70k pus 8 EUR, as long as it is operated by Delta.

  9. OT: I am flying to DPS from HKG in June. Flight lands at 13:40. There is a flight to DPS at 15:45. Does this give enough time (i will be with checked in bags)?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Lady London says:

      I wouldn’t risk it.

      • +1, holding into HKG is as bad as LHR. Not sure if CX gets better treatment than other airlines.

    • Too tight really. Bad airport to go to DPS – not many flights available from HKG. KUL or SIN much better.

      • It made sense for us as i need to do some business in Hong Kong on the way back just the connection is too tight, not disastrous as there is a flight a couple hours later. Thanks for the input guys!

        • Lady London says:

          I’d leave 7 hours between the flights even though I do admit that’s about two hours worth of overkill. Hong Kong’s not a bad airport to spend time in, I even think some excursions to town might work with a slightly longer break?

    • Nate1309 says:

      Having just done that trip (with bigger transfer times) I would also say that is too tight. Have a great time though. I very nearly booked to go straight back to Bali when we landed in LHR.

      • Lady London says:

        I very nearly book to go back to lots of places when I land at LHR. Especially Terminal 5.

    • pointsarb says:

      Just fine this very same trip too. We landed with BA in HKG and connected on a cash fare to DPS with Garuda. We made the connection with 15 mins to spare but that’s because the BA flight was on time. So I concur that it’s possible but very tight!

  10. OT: does anyone have any suggestions on how to get Jumeriah Sirius Silver (or Gold!) status? Haven’t been able to track anything down other than spending in the hotels!

    • Find a mate with an Amex Centurion and ask him to give you a supplementary card. Voila, Jumeirah Gold (and Hilton Diamond and some other stuff).

      Note that the only benefit worth having – free breakfast – is available if you book via Emyr anyway a Jumeirah has a special programme for luxury travel agents like him.

  11. stephan says:

    OT: my ba-ba flight with ba has been cancelled due to scheduling change. it’s within 14 days and I’v only notice because my booking reference no longer works. no notice given to me from ba. The only other flight going will be 7 hours EARLIER in the day, can i claim ec261 for these cancelled flights even though i’ll be getting in earlier?

    • Lady London says:

      While someone else answers about the EU261 personally if you can, I ‘d advise you to get busy online and find what other flight you would prefer to be booked on instead. Then phone them and ask for it. This could include date change and rerouting and could include new flights for your whole ticket if you explain the whole thing needs to change so that you get more or less the closest workable thing to what you booked originally.

      Your chosen alternative (that ideally you will feed them, not ask them to find for you) doesn’t have to be a BA flight but there will be less difficulty getting it if it’s possible for you to prefer, in order :-
      – a BA flight (or set of flights – even changing the whole itinerary including the outbound, for example to keep the same length of time away if you’d prefer to)
      – Oneworld flight(s)
      – anybody else’s flights
      ==> in same class. You don’t have to accept a lower class of travel.

      This is because whilst airlines are supposed to not just reschedule you only on their own flights, on the day or within a certain period before the flight, practically speaking they are quite naturally going to prefer to keep money “in-house” and try to book you one their own flights or those they have to pay less for or have deals for (like within the Oneworld alliance with AA and AY)

  12. massively OT but some help would be appreciated.

    Lapsed avios collector here, sitting on a stack of avios and 241s and for personal reasons have been unable to book for over 2 years. However, the wife and I have a window to take a trip for 4-5 nights between May and August. We won’t get another opportunity for a few years for a long haul trip so desperate to use it. Aiming for F rather than J if possible. But it seems things have changed on me since I last booked. We are lowly blues now, if that matters.

    1) is the cash surcharge in premium cabins really over £650 each now? Even via JER, a return to JFK was £1200+ for the two of us, and a little over £1k via INV. I am not really considering those other options but still… ouch.

    2) Is there any good way to check availability for anywhere, in a given date range? The availability map had its problems to put it mildly, but it was still helpful. The existing search tool is painfully slow to use. I really don’t mind where we go, but as we have enough points to go anyhwere in any cabin I’d like it to be somewhere long-haul if possible – it is likely we will be able to do shorter trips again soon but this is a rare opportunity to fly long-haul so keen to use it.

    • 1) yes, ‘fraid so; but you don’t have to buy
      2) you will find https://rewardflightfinder.com/ very useful. Remember that you can go out to one airport and come back from another e.g. we fly to Vancouver in F in May and back from Calgary in CW.

      • remember that you can use Avios for flights in other countries e.g. American, Alaska, Cathay, Malaysian

      • 1) bonkers! And while I have not been actively looking at avios news for a while I think I read that the aer lingus low-cost redemptions have now gone and obviously the air berlin ones must have. Misery.

        2) Thank you – that tool is perfect.

        • Hang on…. sydney is now almost £1k PER PERSON in taxes?! Jesus wept.

          Beginning to think that using these points on RFS is the only way to get any value from them any more.

        • 1) depends how you look at it. You are now close in for May and July August are high season so £650ish with a 241 for F is going to be amazing value. Given short trip duration I wouldn’t complicate it going the Inverness or Jersey way, I’d just swallow the cost and get there as quickly and comfortably as possible.

        • Aer Lingus and Iberia redemptions to the US are still under £100 and £175 return respectively, albeit starting in Dublin or Madrid.

        • Lady London says:

          I think if you phone rather than do online, the EI one is to some extent still alive.

        • Lady London says:

          Well said @BJ. That 2for1 makes the outrageous surcharges for F work especially at short notice in pretty much peak season…. if the seats can be found ! Good luck on that Nick. Done one trip to Japan and definitely want to do another, it’s a fascinating place.

        • Thanks all. Just to round this off: my wife didn’t buy my pitch for a trip to Tokyo. To be fair it is a long way to go for such a short period of time… still gutted though.

          But we have instead booked Moscow, another city I’ve always wanted to visit. And from a points/pounds perspective it is a quirky redemption. I’d be happy to fly in economy on a 4 hour flight, but the fact that they have (to my surprise) an F cabin for just £55 per person return (plus a handful of points) makes it something of a no-brainer really, especially as we are going off-peak. As we have been “out of the game” on travel for the last few years we are yet to try the F wing so I’m looking forward to that, too. I’ve heard horror stories about DME but looking forward to seeing the city itself.

    • Forget your 2-4-1, send avios to Iberia then use them there to go to Tokyo/Shanghai/South America.
      Or do LHR-LUX/PRG in J then spend 4 hours in T3 lounge hopping. After all you have only 4-5 nights

      • thanks Tony. Availability to Tokyo is actually pretty decent on BA. I assume the benefit of sending them to Iberia is that it is cheaper in taxes?

        As someone says above- I don’t want to mess around with anything other than direct flights here as I’ve got such limited time.

        • With 4 or 5 day trip Tokyo doesn’really work from UK with BA due to the flight schedule. Heading West works better.

        • It’s certainly a lot further than I had considered reasonable, but I am talking myself into it (the wife may well talk me out of it again of course). Take off day 0, land first thing day 1. Night 1: on board. I’d have one jetlagged day on day 1; 3 proper days and then day 5 would be travel (returning same day).

          But the thing is… I really want to go to Tokyo. This could be my only chance in the foreseeable future! It is also over £400 cheaper than flying to the US. And I would be getting 26 hours of F for my money too.

        • If you want to go to Tokyo – just do it, otherwise you will regret not going and do you want that? 4 days there is better than 0…

        • Lady London says:

          quite a few things are cheaper in taxes and miles if you transfer your miles to Iberia and book using their charts rather than BA’s. You’d have to know though that if anything goes wrong (your side or Iberia messing you around) Iberia’s rep is that they’re pretty difficult to deal with.

          For Tokyo I think Japan Air Lines can have Avios used on it?

        • Agree with Alex…the right redemption is always the one where you want to go when you want to go 🙂

  13. Brasov says:

    OT. The Amex Wheely offer is wheely good, and thanks to the hfp-er whose code gave me 20% off my first journey in a Merc E class – delighted to pass on my code as well, it’s L65EM

  14. C F Frost says:

    OT. Have just received a Bink email. I’d long since forgotten about them and binned their app. Rob waxed lyrical about them on their launch. Do they still offer the HfP demographic any meaningful advantage? Is there life still in there? A Harryhack perhaps?

    • Bink has transitioned into a technology company (which is what I always thought it should have done in the first place). It recently secured a £10m investment, mainly from Barclays, which wants to see how it can integrate loyalty data with banking data.

  15. Scallder says:

    OT but from the Virgin Atlantic Well Red email this month, Virgin Atlantic credit cards offering FX free spending abroad between 9th April and 31st August: https://www.virginatlantic.com/content/vaa/gb/en/flying-club/credit-card/nofeesoverseas.html?cid=PDM38816&bid=235143729

    Says it’s for new sign ups, but might also apply to existing card holders? (I don’t have one so not sure if people have been messaged about this already?). Annoyingly came a bit late as had I know about this last week would have jumped in for it for an upcoming trip later this week.

    Annoyingly

    • This is strictly targeted. Arguably … you may still be better off waiting until the bonus goes back up to 10k / 25k (vs current 5k / 15k) unless you are spending serious sums abroad this Summer.

    • Louise says:

      Had a targeted offer of free FX since January on my virgin card

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