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Earlier this month, Delta, Air France/KLM, and Virgin Atlantic finally launched their new and massive transatlantic joint venture. Prior to the new deal, Delta had two separate transatlantic joint ventures – one with Virgin Atlantic and one with Air France/KLM.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
For simplicity, this means that frequent flyer reciprocity in now in place. In other words, you can redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on Air France/KLM flights (and vice versa). There aren’t any major implications here for Delta SkyMiles, since Delta had partnerships with Virgin and AirFrance/KLM allowing redemptions on both airline groups already.
Redeeming Flying Blue Miles For Virgin Atlantic Flights (with lower surcharges)
Since this is a new development, I began searching for Virgin Atlantic availability on Air France’s site and have to say the rates needed to book Upper Class (with taxes and fees) compared to booking with Virgin itself are intriguing!
Here is a sample itinerary:
- BOS-LHR in Business Class (via Flying Blue) = 56.5k + $205
- BOS-LHR in Business Class (via Virgin) = 47.5k + $674
…as opposed to Virgin’s…
And if you’re on the west coast…
- LAX-LHR in Business Class (via Flying Blue) = 72k + $205
- LAX-LHR in Business Class (via Virgin) = 77.5k + $674
…as opposed to Virgin’s…
Those are pretty solid rates for Upper Class (business class) traveling to the UK. And I’d gladly redeem an extra 9,000 miles to save nearly $500 from the east coast and 5,000 miles to save $500 from the west coast.
FLYING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION
Unfortunately, as we all know, the surcharges for flights in the other direction will be cRaZy expensive due to the notoriously high taxes on flights originating in the UK.
WHY SO EXPENSIVE?
It’s a long story but, in simplest terms, when a plane leaves the UK:
- the government wants a cut so they add some fees
- the airport wants a cut so they add some fees and;
- there are the typical carrier-impossed fees
There are ways to get around this but I’ll cover that in a separate blog.
HOW DO I GET FLYING BLUE MILES?
Virgin Atlantic releases a good amount of award space, but the surcharges are hard to swallow. Sure you can use Delta Skymiles to book, but they are only a transfer partner of Amex, and it’ll run you 86,000 a pop.
The Air France / KLM Flying Blue program is a partner of all the major flexible currencies:
Additionally, Amex had a 25% transfer bonus at the end of last year, and generally runs that bonus promotion at least twice in a 12 month period. Citi has had bonuses as well. If you were strategic and transferred during a 25% bonus, you could fly Virgin Upper Class for just 46k & 58k points from Boston Los Angeles, respectively. That’s a pretty solid deal if you ask me.
Pro-Tip: Virgin will begin operating their new A350 with AMAZING NEW BUSINESS CLASS SEATS on 29 March 2020 from Los Angeles. 😉
While I haven’t had the chance to review the new business class seats on Virgin’s A350, it’s near the top of my list because it’s a HUGE improvement over the previous “1-2-1, look directly at your neighbor” generation.
Overall, the ability to book Virgin Atlantic award space with Flying Blue is awesome. It’s even better that the required mileage isn’t awful, and the fees are FAR better than I would have imagined.
It’s worth noting that sometimes transfer times aren’t instant, however, Flying Blue will generally give you a complimentary 72-hour hold on flights when speaking to a representative.
And if you’re more about Quantity over Quality…economy only costs 29,000 miles + $65. London for $65? Count me in!!
What do you make of this development? Does it make you Flying Blue miles more valuable?