Virgin Atlantic has, with no notice, massively devalued Virgin Flying Club redemptions on US airline (and 49% Virgin shareholder) Delta.
Before we go into this, I want to be clear about one thing. There is no change to the pricing of Virgin Flying Club redemptions on Delta if you are flying from the UK.
Business Class redemptions from the UK to US on Delta remain at 95,000 to 135,000 points off-peak and 115,000 to 155,000 points peak, return.
What Delta flights have been devalued?
This no-notice change impacts you primarily if:
- you planned to redeem on domestic Delta flights in the US, or
- you planned to fly from the US to Europe, excluding the UK, to benefit from Delta’s exceptionally low taxes and charge
What is the new Delta redemption pricing?
A new distance-based chart has appeared for all flights which do not involve the UK. This is one-way pricing:
Historically (ie until yesterday), one-way redemptions from the United States to Europe (excluding the UK) on Delta cost just 50,000 Virgin Flying Club points and $6 of tax. This is for Business Class.
This is no longer the case.
Boston to Amsterdam, for example, would now cost 80,000 Virgin Points + $6 one way. This is an increase of 30,000 Points, based on 3,500 miles flown.
US West Coast changes are even more extreme.
Los Angeles to Paris, one way, used to be 50,000 Virgin Points plus $6. This jumps to a crazy 130,000 Virgin Points plus $6 – and this is just one way, remember.
Whilst not really relevant for UK residents, the pricing jump for Delta flights from the US to Asia is also extreme.
And it gets worse
If you look at the small print in the chart above, you will see that it says:
“Pricing is on a per sector basis”
If you are flying from, say, Salt Lake City to Paris with a Salt Lake City to Los Angeles connection, you need to pay for the domestic leg on top.
This adds an EXTRA 27,500 Points as Salt Lake City to Los Angeles is 590 miles. You add this on top of the 130,000 Points needed for Los Angeles to Paris.
Why has Virgin Atlantic done this?
This was, with 99% certainty, forced on Virgin Atlantic by Delta.
Delta has been doing its best to move to a revenue-based frequent flyer programme in recent years. Virgin Atlantic redemptions were simply looking too cheap compared to Delta’s own programme and compared to what other SkyTeam partners charge.
The reason that flights from the UK to USA on Delta have been untouched is due to competition from Avios, and potentially because these flights attract substantial carrier charges.
These changes are unfortunate, but the bottom line is that few Virgin Flying Club members in the UK will be impacted by this change.
Whilst the one way redemptions from the US to mainland Europe were astonishing value with just $6 of taxes and charges, I doubt many readers booked one.
(That said, I DID book one, twice, so Anika could fly back from the US to her family in Germany. This will be a very expensive favour if I do it again.)
It will hit you if you are redeeming for domestic Delta flights in the US, although some short economy trips are cheaper under this new chart.
Irrespective of all this, the lack of notice by Virgin Flying Club to its members shows a worrying lack of mutual trust and respect. At a time when Virgin’s long term future is still not guaranteed, moves like this will only encourage members to cash out to IHG Rewards Club or Hilton Honors or for a few hundred Greggs sausage rolls whilst the going is good.