Obtaining miles and points is easy! Redeeming miles and points is easy too! Redeeming points and miles for “great value”…well, that’s a different ball game.
Redeeming points can be one of the most confusing aspects of this hobby because in your search to travel from [Point A] to [Point B], you will find a range of redemption rates. In other words, a redemption could cost 10,000 miles through one airline, 15,000 through another airline, and 100,000 through another airline (I’m looking at you Delta).
This concept can become even more frustrating if you’re like me and want to redeem points for “maximum value.”
One of the questions I receive the most is “If I redeem (X amount of miles) on (X airline), is that a good rate?” And the answer is “it depends.” How much do you want to be on THAT flight, on THAT date, going to THAT destination?
WOULD YOU RATHER…?
Let’s play a game of “would you rather”…
Question #1: Let’s say that you want to fly one-way from NYC to Los Angeles? Would you rather pay $200 or $400 for the same exact seat on the same exact airplane?
If you said $400, please let me be your travel agent. Forward your payment via Venmo and I’ll buy your ticket on my credit card. 😉
In all seriousness, it’s the same concept with miles…
Question #2: Let’s say that you want to fly one-way from NYC to Los Angeles? Would you rather pay 20000 miles or 40,000 miles for the same exact seat on the same exact airplane?
No one wants to pay more than they have to but when you’re searching for award redemptions, this is exactly what happens. I enjoy practical examples because that’s how I learn concepts so let’s focus on a real life example.
I’M GOING TO SOUTH AFRICA
Recently, I was searching for a one-way, economy ticket to travel from Atlanta, GA to Johannesburg, South Africa. In my research, I found a plethora of options but we’ll focus on a two options to understand the concept.
Option 1: Use Delta Skymiles to fly non-stop ATL-JNB (on Delta)
Option 2: Use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to fly non-stop ATL-JNB
I want to fly on April 1st. In the example above, you’ll see that Delta will charge me 185,000 skymiles (+$5.60) to fly one-way, in economy from ATL-JNB. In the second chart, you’ll see that Virgin Atlantic will charge me 40,000 Flying Club miles (+$5.60).
Let’s take a closer look at both flights (Spoiler Alert: This is where is gets juicy good!)
And now the Virgin Atlantic flight…
Notice anything interesting? You guessed it! They’re the same flight. In this case, there’s only one plane going from ATL-JNB at 8:22pm (or 20:22). This plane has “Delta” written on the side of it but Virgin Atlantic and Delta are partners thus Virgin is able to sell you a ticket on that same plane.
In the Delta calendar view above, you will also notice there’s a “discount” and if you can fly on specific days, Delta will ONLY charge you 140,000 skymiles but you’re still paying 100,000 more miles than paying via Virgin Atlantic.
So, let’s recap…would you rather spend 40,000 Virgin Flying Club miles or 185,000 Delta Skymiles for the same exact seat, on the same exact plane?
HOW DO I GET VIRGIN ATLANTIC MILES?
As a transfer partner of all 4 flexible points currencies — American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott, it’s much easier to earn Flying Club miles than those of many other airlines. There’s even a co-branded Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard that earns Flying Club miles directly.
Do you remember the Chase Sapphire Preferred card that I recommended? The current welcome bonus is 60,000 points. In other words, you would easily have enough points to go to South Africa and would have, at least, 66% of the points required for a roundtrip.
One of the most frustrating situations in this game is realizing that a loyalty program you previously overlooked actually offers significant value.
Virgin Atlantic may not be one of the mileage programs that you are the most familiar with, but they are definitely worth paying attention to.
Typically, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers poor-value for partner bookings and imposes crazy surcharges and fees on award tickets so I largely ignored the program.
Fortunately for me, I understand that airlines are always changing their rules and award charts so it’s never ideal to completely delete a program from your “award bank.”
I’m always looking for “sweetspots” and 185,000 miles (regardless of airline loyalty program) is a cRaZy amount of points to pay for an economy ticket. So before you buy a delta ticket, I would always recommend checking Virgin Atlantic’s award rates.
Have you used Virgin Atlantic to book Delta flights before? Has it saved you a bunch of miles?