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Where can you go with Virgin Flying Club miles, given the new 30,000 mile bonus on their credit card?

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Today I wanted to take a look at a regularly asked question – “Where can you fly using Virgin Atlantic miles?”

This is especially pertinent as you can still – until 30th June – get substantially higher bonuses on the Virgin Atlantic / Virgin Money credit cards.  As you can read here, the free Virgin credit card currently comes with a 12,000 mile bonus and the £160 card comes with a 30,000 mile bonus.

The coverage of Virgin Flying Club on Head for Points has increased considerably since the site started over seven 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 ‘Tesco to 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.  What we have seen in recent years is US airline Delta acquiring a 49% stake, the upcoming investment by Air France KLM for a 31% stake (which will lead to redemptions on Air France and KLM) and a refocusing on routes to North America.  Virgin Atlantic has, indirectly, returned to short-haul flying via its investment in Flybe although Flybe is not yet bookable with miles.  As we covered on Friday, it is also bidding for Thomas Cook’s long-haul operation which would transform what Virgin Atlantic is doing at Manchester.

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 (Heathrow), 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), Grenada (Gatwick), Havana (Gatwick), Montego Bay (Gatwick), St Lucia (Gatwick), Tobago (Gatwick)

Africa and Middle East: Johannesburg (Heathrow), Lagos (Heathrow)

Asia:  Delhi (Heathrow), Hong Kong (Heathrow), Shanghai (Heathrow)

Coming soon:  Tel Avis (Heathrow), Sao Paulo (Heathrow)

From Manchester, Virgin flies to New York, Boston, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, 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, Dubai, Mumbai, Cancun, 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 on 24th May will launch Edinburgh to Boston (Summer only).

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.

Here is our first look at the brand new Upper Class Suite which will be rolling out on the new A350 aircraft later this year.

Virgin 787

Redeeming on Virgin Atlantic partners

Virgin has a number of airline partners – ANA, Air New Zealand, Air China, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, 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 deal discussed is no longer available at that price.

Redeeming to Japan on ANA is probably the best option available from London.  This costs 95,000 miles return in Business and 120,000 miles return in First Class.  I would also flag:

using Air New Zealand to book redemptions from Asian capital cities to Auckland (you will struggle to get redemptions on the Heathrow – LA – Auckland service), which you could tag on to a Virgin or Avios redemption between the UK and Asia

using Singapore Airlines for regional flights in Asia (you will struggle to get redemptions from Europe to Singapore as most long-haul flights are blocked)

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.

Redeeming Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France and KLM

Potentially the biggest upheaval in the UK frequent flyer scene in 2019 is going to be the addition of Air France and KLM as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club earning and spending partners.

As I wrote here, Air France and KLM are, subject to regulatory approval (which takes a while), buying a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic.  Virgin, Delta and Air France / KLM will form a joint venture to cover their combined transatlantic routes, sharing revenues and profits.

From a miles point of view, this has some serious repercussions:

You will be able to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France and KLM.  This opens up a huge new range of redemption possibilities.  Virgin Atlantic has become very USA-centric in the last few years but this new partnership will open up pretty much the entire world.  Choosing Virgin over BA will become more attractive when you have such a wide choice of redemptions.

UK flyers who travel with Air France or KLM (which I know is a lot of HFP readers) will be able to credit their flights to Virgin Flying Club instead of Flying Blue.  It is likely that they will count for status, and that Air France / KLM will recognise that status when you fly with them.

The two airlines have already launched a codeshare deal, but the full partnership has delayed because the US Government has yet to approve the new joint venture.  The EU has approved it so things should move quickly once the US decides it is happy.  The delay is partly down to JetBlue lobbying for access to Heathrow as a trade off.

Redeeming Virgin Flying Club miles on Delta

Don’t forget that Delta flights US-Europe have only £4 of taxes and charges!

As we covered extensively in this article, one sweet spot from Virgin Flying Club are flights from the US to Europe on Delta.  This excludes flights to the UK and also flights from Europe to the US.

For 50,000 Virgin Flying Club miles + £4 you can fly in Business Class, one way, on any of Delta’s routes from the US to various European cities outside the UKWe listed the available routes here.

Conclusion

These are a few of your options if you decide to take advantage of the current special credit card sign-up bonus to diversify away from Avios.

Remember that the free card offers 12,000 miles and the £160 annual fee card offers 30,000 miles, subject to hitting spending targets.  Full details are on the Virgin Money website here.

Learn more about the credit cards mentioned above

Here is the legally required interest rate information on the credit cards mentioned above, together with links to our detailed reviews:

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 12,000 Virgin Flying Club miles – apply hereour Virgin Atlantic Reward review is here – representative APR 22.9% variable

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles – apply hereour Virgin Atlantic Reward+ review is here – representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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Comments

  1. last paragraph before disclaimer states 39,000 signup bonus ??

  2. I’d remove Jet Airways as a redeeming partner… I take it that for someone who earns miles only with this card for now, Tel Aviv is the easiest destination to reach?

  3. paulm says:

    Hi Rob, the Vegas flight is now ex Heathrow.

    • Yep, I was going to post the same! Moved March 31st 2019

    • Fixed!

      • Also, they used to fly to Dubai, which they pulled out of at the end of March 2019. Not that it matters any more, as they claimed to have profitability challenges despite most flights being full, and as a frequent flyer on that route, I have now switched to the national airline of the United Kingdom: Emirates! 😉

  4. The Lord says:

    Anyone got any experience using Virgin miles on Hawaiian?

    • Alex W says:

      Yes. Had to call to book. Value wasn’t great, at or just below 1p per mile if I recall correctly. Can search for availability using Hawaiian’s own website.

      • Hawaiian cash fare sale to California looks better value than Virgin miles…. But inter island worth trying? Fares fairly steep at around $150 return HNL-OGG, so can we use VS miles on those?

  5. Roger* says:

    … and if you go back even further, you can add Maastricht using a BAC1-11. At the time, they tried to tell us Maastricht’s catchment area included The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany!

    There is an interesting history of Virgin Atlantic by Simon Calder, published by Campaign at https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/virgin-atlantic-rock-runways/221929 .

  6. Peter K says:

    I may have missed this as it’s been kept low key but, is there an increased sign-up bonus on the virgin Atlantic cards? 😉

    • Got a big exclusive for tomorrow on something else!

      • Geoff says:

        … so maybe don’t apply *today* and wait for tomorrow’s news?

      • Qwerty Bertie says:

        I bet I know what it is.

      • Ethan says:

        Amex plat increase in fee??

        • Qwerty Bertie says:

          If it’s what I think it is then it will be much-talked about it, although it might not be what I think it is as I’m expecting something significant in about one week, not tomorrow. Perhaps Rob has also found out though, and is breaking it early.

          One thing’s for sure though, something will be changing in a way that many people will like, but I can’t say anymore as I don’t wish to steal Rob’s thunder.

      • Jimbob says:

        A sign up bonus for the HSBC premier current account?

      • Peter K says:

        Oooh Rob, you tease!

        • A change to the 241 voucher perhaps! Which would encourage more people to apply.

          • stevenhp1987 says:

            I would hope so! 2-4-1 economy voucher is useless. Only a minor saving when using it to upgrade 1 ticket to premium.

      • BrianN says:

        Related or Unrelated to Virgin?

  7. Richard Cooper says:

    I’m pretty sure VA have dropped Cancun from London.

  8. Is ANA first class bookable one way?

  9. Thanks for this. Was holding off the new cards because couldn’t see any real use for them but the Singapore regional’s are useful. I’ve got the Waitrose tie up with Virgin so as long as they keep posting (even though erratic!) should keep the points alive in the background till needed.

  10. Andrew says:

    Missing from that list are numerous axed destinations: forgot to mention DUBAI

  11. AndyGWP says:

    Ah – was hoping this would be like your Avios article (which listed destinations and associated miles cost for each cabin) 🙁

    • Nick M says:

      Virgin point redemptions are all listed very clearly on their website… I think it’d be a logistical nightmare trying to sort all of the Partner awards though!

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