Last week I wrote about SPG’s newest airline transfer partner. You can now transfer Starpoints 1:1 to Virgin America Elevate points and get 5,000 bonus Virgin America points for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. That’s particularly amazing because Virgin America is a 2:1 transfer partner of American Express and Citi (eg 20k Membership Rewards = 10k Virgin America points.)

One of the best deals with Virgin America points is flying Virgin Australia from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane. One way awards in Business Class are only 45,000 Virgin America points (40k SPG points.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.39.10 PM

Roundtrips are an even better deal:

  • 40k Virgin America points in economy (35k SPG)
  • 60k in Premium Economy (50k SPG)
  • 80k in Business (65k SPG)

The Product

Virgin Australia’s old Business Class is not the nicest in the world, but you’ll hardly be slumming it.

You get a fully flat bed that is 6’2″ long with a duvet and pillow. You’ll have a personal entertainment screen and access to an onboard bar.Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.15.07 PM

Not all seats have direct aisle access, and reports of the food and service are less glowing than with Asian airlines, but this a solid Business Class product where you will be able to sleep and entertain yourself on the 14+ hour flights.

Plus Virgin Australia has already started rolling out a new, better Business Class that gives all seats direct aisle access.

But this bed and those sweet spots are only theoretical if there isn’t award space on the routes. How much Business Class award space is Virgin Australia releasing right now?

Virgin Australia Business Class Award Space

It is a truism of miles that airlines release Saver award space equally to all partners. (This is only very occasionally not true though phone agents say it isn’t true all the time when they are too incompetent to find the award space you know exists.) A corollary is that anywhere we can search Virgin Australia award space will show us the award space that is available with Virgin America points.

We can search Virgin Australia award space on delta.com five weeks at a time.

I did that for one passenger for the next 11 months on all four flights (LAX to Sydney and Brisbane in both directions), and the only award space that is available is within one week of departure.

Days that say “80,000” have Virgin Australia award space that is bookable for 45,000 Virgin America points one way or 80,000 roundtrip.

Los Angeles to Sydney

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.49.06 PMLos Angeles to BrisbaneScreen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.49.52 PM

Sydney to Los Angeles

LAX > SYD bizSydney to Brisbane
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Good News, Bad News

The good news is that if you can wait until the last minute to book your award, you should be able to find award space. That bad news is that if you can’t, you are not going to be able to book Virgin Australia Business Class at the moment.

This pattern could change at any moment. Virgin Australia used to release 4+ award seats in Business Class basically every day, even over Christmas and New Year.

Other Business Class Options to Australia

Award space to Australia in Business Class is always tough. If you must book more than a week out to Australia, right now United offers a smattering (green and blue days) on its Los Angeles to Sydney…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.07.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.08.12 PM…and Los Angeles to Melbourne routes.Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.08.59 PM

American, Qantas, and Delta offer less Business Class award space than Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia Economy Award Space

If you can survive 15 hours in economy, there is plenty of Virgin Australia economy award space. This calendar shows space from Los Angeles to Sydney. All days that say “45,000” can be booked for 25,000 Virgin America points one way or 40,000 roundtrip.

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You Don’t Live in Los Angeles

If you don’t live in Los Angeles, that is a bit of a problem as these Virgin America awards to Australia are priced only from Los Angeles. You will need a separate award on Virgin America (that will be priced based on the cash ticket’s price) to Los Angeles, or you can get yourself there with cash or any other type of miles.

Hopping Around Australia/NZ/Oceania

Your best bets if you want to see more of the area than just Sydney and Brisbane are to use Avios to fly Qantas or Virgin America points to fly Virgin Australia, including flights to remote Pacific Islands for only 9,500 Virgin America points one way.

How to get SPG Points

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership.

Searching For Award Space, Transferring SPG points and Booking

While you can price out a partner redemption on Virgin America’s website using their award calculator (it also conveniently shows out of pocket taxes and fees), you can neither find award space nor book there.

If Virgin Australia space shows up on delta.com, it is bookable with Virgin America points, so search delta.com. Note the date, cabin, and flight number and call 877-359-8474 to speak to a Virgin America representative. Unfortunately there is an unavoidable $20 phone booking fee.

Bottom Line

Virgin America offers an incredible deal on flat bed award space to Australia: 45,000 points one way in Business Class or 80,000 points roundtrip. The problem is that Virgin Australia releases very little award space, and all of it is in the week before departure at the moment.

Either wait until the last minute to book Virgin Australia award space with Virgin America points, book United Business Class to Australia, or book wide open Virgin Australia economy award space to Australia with Virgin America points.

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