Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer

I’ve been posting about award space to Europe for this summer because that’s what my Award Booking Service clients want. In that vein, Just Another Points Traveler just posted about a great deal that I have to pass on:

From New York to London–this summer–from 13,000 Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards plus $98. See how to take advantage of this amazing deal and how that stacks up against my best deals to Europe after the jump.

Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from nine US cities and offers the unbeatable economy prices for award tickets.

Until June 17, Virgin Atlantic is discounting the miles price of economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK by 25%.

Book now to lock in the rate, and fly your award any time in the next 11 months since Virgin Atlantic’s award booking calendar is currently open through May 11, 2014.

Here’s what Virgin Atlantic normally charges from US cities to the UK:

Ignore these miles prices–there’s a 25% discount!

Ignore the chart though. It doesn’t cost 47,500 miles roundtrip from NYC; it costs 17,500 miles each way with the current 25% discount.

Fuel surcharges aren’t so bad either.

Virgin Atlantic flies to Heathrow from eight American cities. These are the miles needed and taxes plus fuel surcharges from each city to London one way in economy based on searches I performed today:

Washington-Dulles to LHR is also 14k + $97.50

Virgin Atlantic flies from two American cities in economy to London Gatwick and Manchester. These are the miles and dollars needed for those flights one way.

From Orlando, Virgin Atlantic also flies to Glasgow, Scotland. The mileage price is steeper than the flights to London.

Booking These Awards

I recommend booking these awards one way because departures from London incur the huge UK Air Passenger Duty. But if you book these awards one way to London  and return with a different award, you can have a very cheap award to Europe this summer (or this winter or next spring. Awards are bookable 11 months out, and space is wide open.)

To book, sign up for a Virgin Atlantic account here. Then sign into your account and click Spend Miles.

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

For most of the country, yes, but not from Boston.

I’ve written before about how to fly to Europe from anywhere in America for 20k American Airlines miles all year round.

The best deal from Boston is to fly Aer Lingus to Ireland for 12,500 Avios and no fuel surcharges.

But for most people, there is no way to beat 13k to 17.5k miles to London. And once you’re in London, connecting to the rest of Europe on a low-cost carrier is easy.

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a business class product on par with many airlines’ first classes.

Unfortunately the current 25% discount does not apply to Upper Class, so the fuel surcharges and miles required to fly Upper Class are about triple economy. At those prices, I don’t think Upper Class is a great deal. For instance, Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles + $455 in Upper Class.

Getting the Miles

I’ll admit that when Ultimate Rewards–Chase’s loyalty points–added Virgin Atlantic as a partner this year, I thought it was a non-event. We all know Virgin Atlantic charges massive fuel surcharges on its awards, and the best way to get on Virgin Atlantic is (or was) using Hawaiian Miles anyway.

But now that partnership is looking mighty valuable. I have 3,500 or so Virgin Atlantic miles left from getting the Virgin Atlantic card from Bank of America last year, but I don’t recommend following in my footsteps. The Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card comes with 45,000 miles after spending $2,500 in three months.

The problem is the card has a $90 annual fee (not waived), and you probably don’t want 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. Remember that this deal is awesome one way to London. Returning has way higher fuel surcharges and taxes.

You just want 13k to 17.5k Virgin Atlantic miles to fly one way in economy to Europe. The way to get those easily is a transfer from Ultimate Rewards.

Transferable Ultimate Rewards are earned on the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus

Membership Rewards also transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic. Thanks for the reminder Ketan S and Adam!

The best cards to earn Membership Rewards are:

Recap

Europe is within reach for as little as 13k miles one way if you book in the next week for trips for the next 11 months. Where will you go this summer?

56 Responses to Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer

  1. Amazingly good value for economy from the west coast. Upper Class is not so nice – and when I checked availability from SFO, it was really bad – only a few days a month, sometimes only one day available. Add in the huge fuel surcharge and it’s a worthless redemption.

    Won’t be taking advantage of the cheap economy rates. My days of traveling in the back are done. But for a student or someone on a budget, VAtl offers attractive redemption.

    As for that award chart, I wonder if it isn’t simply a sign of things to come?

  2. Woah…thanks for this!!

  3. Useful information. I’d just add a slight notation on your comment that 20k one way on American is normally the best deal to Europe, except for Boston to Dublin with Avios. You can also fly to Dublin from ORD direct on Aer Lingus on Avios for 20k year-round, which is a “tie” with AA, but if you value AA miles more than Avios, as many do, it may be advantageous to use the latter, and it does add more options if you’re an ORD flyer, or if you’re having trouble finding availability on AA, with or without the tricks to get the AA mileage to 20k during peak season.

  4. Thank you for posting. What is your suggestion for cheapest way to get back to the US?

  5. You can also transfer AMEX points to virgin atlantic.

  6. The part about coming back on another award is what I don’t understand. Coming back on Virgin on another one way incurs at 180 pound sterling costs as well. I do wish there were better deals on upper class :-). Those are great flights

    • Use a better type of miles from the Europe to US like United or American which charge 30k miles in economy each way without fuel surcharges.

  7. You should also mention that Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of AMEX.

  8. 4 tickets YVR-LHR, 70,000 miles plus $590.84 Canadian. Surcharges seem a little steep compared to American carriers. Thanks for the ideas, though, we want a last minute trip to Europe too.

  9. Oh no, I just transferred my Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton 2 days ago b/c I thought they were practically worthless!

  10. DC is only 14k miles and $97 :-)

  11. Seems that Virgin is running this as a promotion. 25% miles off coach seats. Valid for booking until June 17th… so this is not a permanent thing nor is it a mistake.

    http://webflyer.com/programs/notiflyer/comments.php?art=2228

  12. This is a great deal! I guess I will have to come back using AA 30k miles or Avios 20k miles from air Berlin. I prefer to use Avios, the only problem is there isn’t many cheap flights going to Berlin.

    • Diamond Vargas

      If the Berlin idea doesn’t work, consider getting to Madrid and then redeeming Avios on Iberia, often 30k for an “Economy” redemption but sometimes theres availability at 20k for a “Blue Class” redemption. Taxes are ~$100 for the one-way. Search through Iberia’s website, not BA.

  13. Anyone have any advice on intra-Europe travel from London? What’s the cheapest way using points or cash to get to Madrid or Paris? I appreciate any help!

  14. “I recommend booking these awards one way because departures from London incur the huge UK Air Passenger Duty. But if you book these awards one way to London and return with a different award, you can have a very cheap award to Europe this summer (or this winter or next spring. Awards are bookable 11 months out, and space is wide open.)”

    Are you saying that one should book a one way to London, and then another one way from London? Or return from another European city aside from London? I’m confused.

    • Any flight–paid or award–on any airline that departs the UK pays the UK APD. Return from another city in Europe for lower taxes.

  15. Wish I didn’t transfer all my VA miles to Hilton a few months back *ugh*

  16. Like a previous commenter said, this is a 25% discount on award flights (Offer available from 31 May until 17 June 2013.)

    Book soon to lock in the prices.
    http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/gb/frequentflyer/spendmiles/rewardflights/flightsformiles.jsp

  17. Typo: “It doesn’t cost 47,500 miles roundtrip from _NYC_; it costs 17,500 miles each way with the current 25% discount.”

    It’s 13,000 each way, 17,500 from the West coast.

    • I did a little analysis on the B of A credit card. If you spend $25,000 within a year, you get 15,000 bonus points (7,500 if you spend $7,500). Additionally, after having spent that $25,000, if you book two economy tickets, you receive the second for half off (plus NORMAL fees and taxes). So from NYC, regularly 35,000, a second ticket is now 17,500. So you will be able to get 2 tickets to London for 52,500 points.

      If you spend $25,000 on the card, you will have received 37,500 miles (25,000*1.5). Add that to the 15,000 bonus points for having spent the $25,000, and you have… 52,500 points.

      This means that if you can spend $25,000 in a year, you will be able to get 2 round-trip tickets in economy to London (with $731 in fees).

      Do you think this is worth it?

  18. @Steven, I have the BOA Virgin Atlantic card and think it earns 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. Since it is a transfer partner of AMEX MR and Chase UR, you might be better off transferring UR points from an Ink Bold/Plus card.

    • Grant, can you clarify? It earns 1.5 miles per dollar, but if you spend 25,000 it actually earns 2.1 miles per dollar (1.5*25,000 plus 15,000 bonus). And if the halved-value of the second ticket counts as increased mileage (valued at 1/2 times the redemption price of the second ticket), than from NYC it’s an addition of 17,500 miles as a bonus, leaving a total of 2.8 miles per dollar— which seems outstanding.

      Of course, one very strong weakness is the non-diversification. The spending is basically only good to get to Europe (as far as I am aware), and there’s no telling when/if VA will again change its redemption chart.

      • Interesting. Glad you went thru the calcs.

        $25K spend would cost $197.50 if using VRs (50 ea x $3.95). So 52.5K VAtl points for $197.5 = 0.37 cpp which seems attractive. That said, I’d only be interested in Upper Class and the fuel surcharge/taxes are ridiculous – $1190 r/t (and 100K miles).

        For comparison, I can churn 135K UA miles for less cost (~$900 for F using INKs or ~$800 using my Mileageplus Select) – and get vastly better availability.

        Better value for me is simply to convert to HH. Even with the devaluation, 50K VA @ 2:1 = 100K HH, which I value at ~0.5 cpp for the type of redemptions I use them for (top tier places like Conrad Koh Samui). Thus get ~$500 value for $90 AF plus $20 in VR fees to meet min spend.

  19. Help?
    How long does it take to transfer Membership Reward points to Virgin? Is it instant?
    Also, how long for UR to Virgin? Thanks!

  20. I have US Airways miles but it looks like the partnership ends tomorrow! How do I redeem them on Virgin Atlantic? Just call?

    • This is a deal using Virgin Atlantic miles. You can use US Airways miles to fly Virgin Atlantic, but not at this number of miles, at the amout of miles US Airways sets (60k roundtrip in economy.)

  21. I have about 56000 mr points and would like to to book a trip to Europe. This would be my first trip and first award booking. Would anyone recommend any travel dates within the 11 month booking range and places to visit for a week. Madrid, and Barcelona are places of interest, but i am open to any other ideas.
    Thanks

    • The further out you look (next spring), the more award space you’ll find. Go where you’re interested in visiting. Madrid and Barcelona are awesome! Use my Award Booking Service if you’re confused. milevalue.com/award-booking-service

  22. What are VA change policy? Are you allowed to change dates for free? I want to book into the future and then change the date once it gets closer

  23. I’m interested in knowing the change policy as well!

  24. Oh and this is a great post! Going to use this for a trip in September.
    I’d use the Avios from Boston but I only have a green card and would have to therefore appy for a visa to Ireland and that’s too much hassle.

  25. Booked for late march next year. Anyone have any suggestion on the flight back?
    VA shows 26,000 + 355.90 for two return flights from london to NYC.

    • Return from a city other than London with American Airlines miles for 20k miles + much lower taxes per person. Make sure the return flights are not operated by British Airways.

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  27. As usual I couldn’t make a decision by June 17… so I will do 17,500 one way from NY to London in August.
    If returning to Boston from Dublin, any suggestions to get from Boston to Newark?

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  31. I see they do these 25% sales every 3-4 months. I’m booking a trip MIA-London today on Virgin Atlantic. If the sale comes up in the interim (since the trip is 6.5 months out), can I contact VA and get a refund on the points? If yes will they charge a $50 change fee?

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