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Where can you go with Virgin Flying Club miles, given the new 25,000 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 31st October – 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 7,000 mile bonus and the £160 card comes with a 25,000 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 (coming soon!).  As we covered on Monday, it is likely to bid for the Thomas Cook long-haul slots at Manchester which would transform what Virgin Atlantic is doing at the airport – which includes a Clubhouse lounge from next Spring.

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:  Antigua (Gatwick), Barbados (Heathrow and Gatwick), Grenada (Gatwick), Havana (Gatwick, moving to Heathrow in June 2020), Montego Bay (Gatwick), St Lucia (Gatwick, ending in June 2020), Tobago (Gatwick)

Africa, India and Middle East:  Johannesburg (Heathrow), Lagos (Heathrow), Tel Aviv (Heathrow), Mumbai (Heathrow), Delhi (Heathrow)

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

Coming in 2020:  Sao Paulo (Heathrow), New York (Gatwick)

From Manchester, Virgin flies to New York, Boston (switching to Delta in May 2020), 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 from 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 review of the brand new Upper Class Suite which is rolling out on the new A350 aircraft, initially to New York.

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 – and you will get the fantastic new ANA seat which I covered here.  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 late 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 is nearly complete), 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 and conditional approval for the full deal has now been given by the US – there is a minor delay now whilst it waits for industry feedback.  The EU has approved the investment.

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 7,000 miles and the £160 annual fee card offers 25,000 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 7,000 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 25,000 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. “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)”

    Not possible to use You can’t use VFC miles on regional Singapore Airlines flights as they are operated by SilkAir.

    • There are still plenty of regional routes operated by sq. Some even have silk air and sq on the same route.
      Also, I think next year the silk air brand disappears as they integrate into sq, leaving scoot as the budget brand.

  2. Hi I live in Cumbria . I have over 100k Avios with BA but they really have to be used from London which is a pain. What is the best option for using ‘points’ flying from the North of England ( preferably Manchester)

    • If you connect in London your domestic sector is free, so you could fly from Manchester to anywhere in the BA network if you have enough Avios.

      • Shoestring says:

        not exactly free – no Avios required but there are other significant charges

        • Never done this so not sure – do the taxes & fees increase significantly?

          • Shoestring says:

            did some dummy bookings and it was cheaper starting from EDI and going through LHR to LH destination than LHR direct!

            I think normally it’s about £30 extra in fees if you start from the regions

  3. Quick question: if i book a virgin holiday via the very tasty offers to Las Vegas now on, will I still qualifer for the miles booster 40% promotion currently running?
    To Be honest the upgrade to Economy Delight (every inch counts) pays for itself with milesbooster…..

  4. And now I discover i have “congratulations” you have a 20% bonus on purchased miles….. argghhh…. 20% that’s pants. i want 40% like earlier this year. then i buy

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