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. Benylin says:

    Wow that tax on UC to NYC is mad from London, just seems pointless collecting these miles….

    • The Urbanite says:

      For some routes you can save by booking as two one way trips as the fees can be much lower for one way flights towards the UK, which makes it more worthwhile.

  2. Travel Strong says:

    Cancun seems like a big gap in their portfolio!
    ‘Caribbean and Mexico’ no longer has any Mexico.
    I’d book it in a flash, particularly if it came via 747 and an opportunity to fly the upper deck for the last time.

  3. Colin JE says:

    Looking forward to the KLM/Air France tie up.
    Slightly off topic but any news on when it’ll be possible to earn Virgin tier points and/or miles with Flybe?

    • +1
      I asked a similar question in the comments above
      The most crucial point is how far back we would be able to retro claim – they need to somehow reward our loyalty in the “interregnum” period

  4. OT on the business platinum card does the referral system work the same as personal, the application can be for any card including personal cards to get the referral points

  5. Rooster says:

    Anyone have the best way to find availability of the ANA to Japan flights online as they told me when phoning that they can’t tell me ranges only specific dates which is a little long winded

    • Use the UA reward flight finder. Usually what appears on there should show up for VS.

  6. Are there any routes where the upgrade voucher can be used where there are lower fees added to it?

  7. Kieran Fox says:

    I don’t get the ‘Virgin has become very USA-centric in the last few years’ mentality. If you look at their route network, the number of non-USA routes is far higher, in fact almost double. Then look at the most recent announced routes – Tel Aviv, Sao Paolo and a return to Mumbai – and this further proves the point.

    • Shoestring says:

      LBJ’s first rule of politics: learn to count.

      Looking at the list above (Virgin routes), it’s 19 routes to the US (26 with Delta codeshare)
      vs 14 routes to non-US.

      I think the point was about evolution of routes over the last few years, ie the strengthening of US routes & loss of non-US routes Sydney, Dubai, Mumbai, Cancun, Vancouver, Cape Town, Tokyo, Varadero, Accra, Athens, Mauritius, Nairobi, Nassau, Port Harcourt and Toronto.

      • Kieran Fox says:

        Talking about learning to count. Where do you get 16 from? Antigua, 3 x Barbados (Heathrow and Gatwick and Manchester), Grenada, Havana, Montego Bay, St Lucia, Tobago, Johannesburg, Lagos, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Delhi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, São Paulo.

        Regardless, I was actually referring to destinations – of which there are more non-US than US. So my point still stands that I don’t think the statement that ‘Virgin has become VERY US-centric is entirely accurate. And your evolution of routes doesn’t hold true either – their 3 most recent announced routes are all non-US, and from what I gather the ones they’re looking at currently follow in that vein too.

  8. As usual, far too much info crammed into one article to promote crdfit card commission (which i get pays for the website)

    For an article on where you can go, why not focus each article on one route and list options for peak and none peek at various dates for the year ahead.

    Then do the same for the next route – hey, just think of all the extra opportunities to promote the card/commission lol

    Not a major gripe but I think the majority of us with 20,000 to 200,000 miles just need a little more detail please.

  9. ‘using Air New Zealand to book redemptions from Asian capital cities to Auckland’
    I have seen more flying pigs covered in unicorn pop than redemptions on these routes!
    Maybe I’ve just been unlucky but it was not for want of trying.

  10. Bootlace says:

    Indeed, Air NZ redemptions as well as Singapore Airlines almost non existent, best redemption I’ve taken so far, has been Detroit to Amsterdam on A350, 50000 points and $5.67 taxes, then short hop to Birmingham on KLM.

    • Air NZ is only rubbish only London-LA. Other routes are better. Same with Singapore Airlines – no problem getting seats around Asia.

  11. Not sure if already mentioned but up to 40% bonus miles with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – Miles Booster from 1st to 31st October 2019,

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