Virgin Atlantic ends its Air China partnership – are there any good partner flight awards left (except ANA!)?

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Virgin Atlantic has announced that it is ending its partnership with Air China.

It issued a statement to say:

“Our partnership with Air China is ending. Termination of the partnership is effective from the 16th March. Unfortunately, no more bookings can be made on or after the 16th March 2020 and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members will not be eligible to earn miles on Air China flights from 16th March 2020.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members who fly prior to 16th March 2020 will continue to be able to retrospectively claim miles for up to 6 months after their flight. Plus, Flying Club redemption bookings made on Air China prior to 16th March 2020 will also be honoured (subject to standard terms and conditions).

If you have any queries or would like to retrospectively claim miles, please contact our call centre.”

If this came as a surprise, it probably shouldn’t.  Late last year, Air France, KLM, China Eastern and Virgin Atlantic signed a deal to extend the existing joint venture between Air France, KLM and China Eastern to include Virgin.  This covers all routes between Europe and China.

The glory days of Air China redemptions had already passed, in any event.   Until May 2018, Air China was THE sweet spot in the Virgin Atlantic reward chart.

You could book Air China in First Class, London to Beijing, for just 75,000 miles return!  If there wasn’t availability, you could get Business Class for 63,000 miles return.

In May 2018, Virgin Atlantic decided that this was simply too generous.  It increased the rate to 135,000 miles in Business Class and 200,000 miles in First Class.  That was almost 300% higher for First!

The Virgin Atlantic / Air China partner page is here.

Virgin Atlantic

Who are Virgin’s other airline partners?

Virgin Atlantic is not in a major airline alliance, despite Delta Air Lines – a core plank of the SkyTeam alliance – being a 49% shareholder.

Despite that, the airline does have a number of airline partners with whom you can earn and redeem Flying Club miles.  These include :

  • Air China (until March)
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • SAS (earning only)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

… plus of course its shareholder Delta.

There is no standard partner redemption chart in terms of miles needed and it is difficult to get your head around what is a good deal.

We will come on to ANA in a minute, which is the infamously good one.

Apart from ANA, the only deal – on paper – that looks good is business Class on Air New Zealand, London to Los Angeles for 75,000 miles return.

However, in reality, you can pretty much forget the Air New Zealand option unless you want a regional flight.  It makes very little award space available from London for Star Alliance members, let alone partners.  Of course, this doesn’t matter anyway as Air New Zealand will no longer fly to London from October 2020.

You can also forget Singapore Airlines for long haul, because “Redemptions in Business Class and First Class on Singapore Airlines’ A380, 777-300ER and A350-900 aircraft types are not available” which covers virtually every aircraft they fly from Europe.  You can book regional Singapore Airlines flight around Asia which may be handy if travelling in the region.

Tokyo is your best choice

There is another good option – ANA, the Japanese airline.

Assuming you are based in the UK, these are the key numbers you need to know:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 65,000 Virgin miles

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 95,000 Virgin miles

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 120,000 Virgin miles

Note that one way redemptions are not possible.  You may also find it tricky to find two seats per flight although one is more straightforward.

These are exceptionally good rates in Business and First.  For comparison, this is what you pay using Avios for a BA or JAL redemption:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 39,000 Avios off-peak / 60,000 Avios peak

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 150,000 Avios off-peak / 180,000 Avios peak

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 204,000 Avios off-peak / 240,000 Avios peak

The price gap between Avios and Virgin miles is stunning.  Even with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL a better deal to use Virgin miles most of the time when travelling Business or First Class.

Even better, there are no fuel surcharges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin miles.  You will have to pay the usual Air Passenger Duty, Heathrow departure taxes etc.

Anika flew down to Tokyo with ANA in 2017 and you can read her review of ANA’s Business Class product here.  It is good.  And, of course, you now get (on the right plane) the fantastic new ‘THE Room’ business class suite.   This won ‘Best New Business Class Seat (Editor’s Choice)’ at the 2019 Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards.

Big changes are coming to Virgin’s airline partnerships, of course

Potentially the biggest upheaval in the UK frequent flyer game in 2020 is going to be the addition of Air France and KLM as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partners.

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.

I am quite excited – mainly because my wife has 1.2 million Virgin Flying Club miles!  This should go live in the next few weeks.


The loss of Air China, and the end of Air New Zealand’s UK services, are gutting the Virgin Atlantic partner reward chart.  Only ANA remains as a genuine gem if you are flying from the UK.  The arrival of Air France and KLM as partners will hopefully be a step change.

Best Virgin Flying Club partner flight redemptions

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.

It is also worth reading our recent article on 10 good reasons to get the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card.

(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.)

How to earn miles on your HMRC tax bill via debit card (Tesco), American Express (Billhop), Curve, Miles & More or Revolut
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  1. Jim Lovejoy says:

    Delta is also a good deal. To the U.S. ex-UK it’s still only 50k miles. Even better, from the US to Europe ex-UK, it’s still 50k miles and $5.60.
    If you can find availability, DUB to BOS or NYC with a return to either DUB, CDG, or AMS would be 100k miles and about 150£ in Delta One.
    Not the screaming deal that some redemptions are, but still very nice.

    • Availability not good?

      • Mikeact says:

        It’s OK…if you know where to look.

        • You can price up Delta redemptions on the Virgin site

          • Jim Lovejoy says:

            The Virgin site isn’t set up to be easy. Even if you specify ‘flexible dates’ if there isn’t availability it will just ask you to choose another date. Delta, always has availability. Just ignore the 320k skymiles dates. Also, ignore the 75k dates, they’re partner awards. Check that the 80k awards are direct, then go to the Virgin site. Once you find a date that works, you can go to calendar view.
            I believe, though I haven’t checked, that taxes and fees are lower for 2 one ways than for a round trip.

          • luckyjim says:

            It used to be that the all ’80k delta miles’ flights would be available on Virgin. Not so bad if you are flying solo and don’t mind going midweek but otherwise it’s a struggle.

  2. It’s this sort of thing and recent SPG card changes that makes me think taking a two year Amex holiday is a bad idea. Earning is getting harder and spending more expensive.

    There are still ways and means to make a good return on cards when in the game – referrals (including cross-referrals with a partner), bonus point offers, transfer bonuses and supplementary cards – without getting too aggressive.

    The manufactured spend game is just too much hassle and I’m not prepared to run the risk of accounts being frozen and in extremis all assets being frozen for suspected money laundering. Admittedly the later is a remote risk but the “manufactured spend” stuff people talk about has all the hallmarks of money laundering and if you do it too much or for too long you’re going to set hares running.

    The game keeps changing and it’s going in one direction so might as well stay in it. That’s my take.

    • The Urbanite says:

      MS can lead to more sinister consequences than just funds frozen. Think we had one person on here saying they were reported to CIFAS following a misunderstanding from MS. And the police may eventually launch a full scale ML investigation if enough financial institutions report you to the NCA, which they tend to do to cover themselves if shutting down your account.

      It’s not all first class flights and five star hotels for everyone unfortunately!

      • Yes, consequences can be quite significant if you happen to work in financial services….!

        • “yes your honour, these £1000 a day transactions that were made on a credit card in my name that has since been cancelled which were used to fund a prepaid MasterCard debit card pertaining to a Russian-founded electronic money institution called revolut, which i then partly used to pay off said credit card, and partly withdrew as cash, were all completely legitimate, your honour.”

  3. OT — Rob et al

    I am trying to make the most out of this offer from BA AMEX card with 3000 avios for £300 booking. LHR – INV (RT flight) for 3 pax but require only 2 check-in luggage. I am thinking of just making a single booking by having 3rd check-in luggage which is not required anyway for £18 extra to hit £300 for that 3000. Note that 2 separated booking won’t qualify and one single booking for all 3 pax without the check-in luggage does qualify but adding luggage after the flight is too costly (£25 one-way).

    So basically, 3000 bonus avios + (3 times x ticket cost using BAPP) avios = £18. Not sure from your experiences, is it worth it? Sorry I am quite a penny pincher!


    • Yes, make sense as you will get more than 0.6p from the Avios. You could also add a charity donation during booking instead which I imagine you can get gift aid tax credit on.

    • Whilst the T&Cs often say that it needs to be one transaction, experience in the comments suggest that cumulative spend triggers the bonus too 🙂

    • The t&cs don’t say it needs to be in one booking?

      “Offer only available when you spend £300 or more at by 16 February 2020 with the British Airways American Express card to which the offer was saved.”

      It’s always been cumulative in the past.

  4. Booked and flew Johannesburg to London earlier this month in business class on South African using 55k Virgin miles and £214. Checked Expertflyer for award space and phoned Virgin Flying Club to book.
    For a 10hr flight, I’d say that redemption was really good value. Flight was great and arrived fresh for a full day’s work.
    Not sure if availability other times of the year but there were several dates available for redemption in Jan.

    • Not bad at all I have to say.

    • Genghis says:

      I was speaking to one of our SA bankers back end of last year who was on the board of SAA. Even he didn’t fly SAA since they were so short of cash it was impacting maintenance. He resigned last week over it.

  5. I’m doing ANA from Heathrow to Tokyo in first next month and I’m beyond excited. I’ve never flown business before and the only time I flew premium economy was a short flight in China. I’m more excited about the flight than the holiday!

    Can anyone advise on which lounge is best for me?

    • United Club is the best option but it’s in the B satellite – although you are likely to be on B.

      • Thanks Rob!

      • Pangolin says:

        I agree. That’s currently my favourite option for T2. Also, they now serve Champagne (ppl said that only the AC lounge served it IIRC). It’s Rodier btw, but I’m far from a connoisseur, so make of that what you will.

        I usually go out of A (LH/LO) but if I have time I generally make a beeline for the UA lounge.

        The OP has a lot to look forward to with that ANA F trip!

    • I just used Singapore first class lounge when I flew ANA first class last week. It was really quiet and private as I was one of the only three passengers when I got there. It remained the case until the actual Singapore Airlines passengers started to arrive, but by then it was 1h to boarding anyway. The a la carte menu was great there. The self service area looks small, but if you want anything, the waiter will get it for you from the kitchen. I saw reviews that they had singapore sling icecream tubs in the business lounge, but I didn’t see any on offer in the first class lounge, so I asked the waiter, and he brought me a properly made icecream dish.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      Any tips on finding availability? Did you book these 6 months in advance or 12 months for example? I have always struggled with this and would love to fly this route.

    • United F and Singapore F lounges are both brilliant. I did the same flight and hopped between the two lounges. I was the only one in both of them for quite a while! Great memories. Unfortunately the ANA F lounge at Haneda was an abysmal experience so don’t get your hopes up.

    • Matthew says:

      Did you book with Virgin miles? Rumour has it that they now allow one-ways to be booked on ANA?

  6. grammer says:

    Is possible to use Virgin miles for a singapore airlines flight down to OZ? (from singapore)
    That could be a very useful redemption

    • If only there was a page for ‘airline partners’ on the VS website that answered questions like this.

  7. OT Virgin Bits – Email just received:-

    Dear Uberior

    Virgin Money Back, as you know it, will be closing. The most important thing for you to do is to take your funds out of your existing Virgin Money Back account so you don’t miss out. But there’s good news on the way – keep an eye out for more ways to earn rewards on your Virgin Money Credit Card.

    Move it on out

    As of 24 Feb‌ruary 20‌20 all Virgin Money Back offers will be removed and you’ll no longer be able to earn fundsback.

    You’ll be able to sign in to your Virgin Money Back account until 26 M‌ay 20‌20. So if you have any earned funds, make sure you take it out by this date.

    To do this, go to the ‘Request funds’ section of your account (only available once you have payable funds in there) and follow the online instructions.

    Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten your password – you can get a reminder here.

    As stated, your Virgin Money Back account will close on 26 M‌ay 2‌020 and you’ll no longer be able to access the site or your funds. But like we said, good things are coming – so move your funds now and make way for something even better.

    This is very disappointing. The Virgin Moneyback site was so ropey, I kept getting £lots for other people’s spending. (My employer has a single presentation IP address and there’s 10,000 on campus).

  8. I have always wondered, do you have to call up Virgin to book partner redemptions?

  9. What would you prefere between JAL and ANA on a 777 for both?

  10. No bits so O/T, any Japan experts? Need to book 4 nights in Osaka. I will be booking through IHG so I am considering intercontinental @ 60k points for 4 nights x 2 rooms so 480k points. However rates seem low for the Crowne Plaza £95 per night per room or Holiday inn Namba at £80 per room per night. Is the intercontinental worth the points? (Cash rates for intercontinental too high).
    Luxury not as important as location and keeping 2 teenagers entertained.

  11. 1,200,000!!!!

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