American Express is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016. For the next four weeks, 1,000 Membership Rewards will transfer to 1,300 Etihad Guest Miles.

 

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This is huge news because there is also currently a 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards through May 11, 2016. Combining this transfer bonus with that sale means you can book awards from the Eastern United United States to London for 10,000 Membership Rewards plus $135 with great availability for the next 11 months if you act right now. From other parts of the country, you’ll pay only a few more miles.

On some routes, award space is WIDE OPEN year round, including the heart of summer 2016. Here is the award space for July 2016 from New York to London. Days with a red line underneath have award space that can be booked for 10,000 Membership Rewards one way.

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Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from 12 US cities and offers great prices for award tickets in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

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The normal prices are only:

  • 17,500+ miles in economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 27,500+ miles in Premium Economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 40,000+ miles in flat bed Upper Class to London, depending on starting city

Two Week Sale on Economy and Premium Economy Awards

Until May 11, 2016, 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 30%. Neither Premium Economy nor Upper Class awards are discounted during this sale. Discounted award prices (one ways bookable for half the miles price) originating in the US:

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Book now to lock in the rate; you can book travel through April 3, 2017 at the discounted prices.

Transfer Bonuses

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer parters of Virgin Atlantic) have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles in the past.

This is the first time we have see a concurrent transfer bonus and award sale.

Right now you can transfer 10,000 Membership Rewards to 13,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. The Membership Rewards will instantly appear as Virgin Atlantic miles, and you can use 12,250 to book a one way award from Boston, Newark, New York, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London.

You’d only need 12,000 Membership Rewards for a one way from Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Newark.

There are similar deals to Manchester and Glasgow.

Out-of-Pocket Price

Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges. You cannot avoid them.

Virgin Atlantic roundtrip awards will feature a departure from Great Britain, which will incur exorbitant taxes. You can easily avoid them by using this sale to book one way awards to London only. Then use a different type of miles to return from a low tax city in Europe. You see more of Europe for very few miles and very low out of pocket expense.

For instance, a one way award from New York, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London will cost 12,250 miles + $135 in economy, even over the heart of summer.

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That is a manageable out-of-pocket price that is very much worth paying to save a ton of miles over awards using other miles.

But let’s look at a return from London to the United States. Now a one way in economy is 12,250 miles + a ridiculous $257.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.22.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.31.37 PM

Strategy to Lower or Eliminate Out-of-Pocket Price

To reiterate, just book the eastbound to London during this transfer bonus and sale. Book the westbound return from somewhere cheaper in Europe with a different type of miles, perhaps United or American. (Get between London and Europe on a train or a low cost carrier.)

You can even eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Virgin Atlantic Award with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offer a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes and fuel surcharges on an award ticket definitely count. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $250, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $250, $250 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to Flying Blue miles.

Application LinkCiti Prestige® Card

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

Other than WOW Air’s $99 fares from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Iceland, yes.

Here are some almost-as-good deals (copied from my list of the best awards between all regions):

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a fantastic business class product.

Unfortunately the current 30% 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 unless you are miles poor and cash rich at the moment. For instance, New York to London is 40k miles (31,000 Membership Rewards) + $420, and Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles (39,000 Membership Rewards) + $458 in Upper Class.

Searching for and Booking the Award

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. You don’t even need to be a member of the Flying Club to search. Just fill in the search form and select “Spend your miles.”

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Whatever space you find this way is bookable with Flying Club miles, there are no blackout dates for this sale. You can also book right on virginatlantic.com.

Results look like this. At the bottom of each date are colors that signify award space.

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Red is economy, white is Premium Economy, and purple is Upper Class.

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Bottom Line

Europe is within reach for as little as 12,250 miles one way if you book in the next week for trips for the next 11 months. Membership Rewards has a concurrent 30% transfer bonus. That means you can book awards to Europe for 10,000 points + $135 one way. Where will you go this summer?

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