Next Year Fly to Europe for 8,000 Points on Virgin Atlantic

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Virgin Atlantic is dramatically altering its award charts for bookings made January 16, 2017 or later.

  • The United States goes from two regions to three.
  • The year round price is no more. Now we will have off peak and peak prices.
  • Economy and Premium Economy prices for most of the year drop dramatically. Upper Class (Business) prices rise.

Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of all four major currencies: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints.

We have seen Citi and Amex transfer bonuses of 25% and 30% every few months in the past. If you transferred during one of those bonuses, next year you can book a one way flight from several US cities to London for 8,000 points or only 14,000 points in Premium Economy.

The New Chart

Here is the new award chart that takes effect for bookings made January 16, 2017 or later. The current award chart will be used for bookings made through January 15, 2017.

(All award prices in this chart are roundtrip, and one way awards are half the price.)

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-57-08-am screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-57-22-amFor 2017, the peak dates will be March 31 – April 18, June 22 – September 6, and December 13 – 31. That’s 115 days, and most of the good weather.
screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-58-00-amThe other 235 days after January 15 are at off peak prices, including most of the good weather in June and September.

Comparison to Old Chart

The first difference is that the old chart had only two regions. Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta had the same prices as the Northeast. Orlando and Miami had the same price as the West. Now those five cities form a new mid-priced region of the Midwest and Southeast.

The second difference is the actual prices.

(All award prices in this chart are one way, in thousands of miles.)

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-4-10-18-am

Keep in mind that taxes plus fuel surcharges on these awards are approximately $135 from the US to UK in economy one way, $235 in Premium Economy, and $420 in Upper Class.

First the good news: award prices in economy and Premium Economy went way down for most of the year and only up modestly for peak times.

For instance, it used to cost 21,250 miles one way from Florida to the UK. Not it will cost 12,500 miles for most of the year. When was the last time you saw a 41% price drop in a new award chart?

Similarly Florida to the UK used to cost 35,000 miles one way in Premium Economy. Now it will cost 22,500 miles for most of the year and 32,500 miles at peak times. That’s up to a 36% price drop.

The cheapest 10k one way awards from Boston, Newark, New York-JFK, and Washington-Dulles to the UK will be only 8,000 Citi or Amex points during transfer bonuses. That’s incredible even after paying $135 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Similarly, during transfer bonuses, 14,000 Citi or Amex points plus $235 is a steal for Premium Economy (think domestic First Class) to London.

Now the bad news: Upper Class awards go way up in price. Awards from the Northeast at off peak times go down 6%, but all other Upper Class awards go up in price. From the Western US to the UK in the summer goes up in price 55%. After fuel surcharges, I think most of these awards are duds, although they can be decent deals during an Amex or Citi transfer bonus.

Cards to Get Now

If you get cards that earn Citi ThankYou Points and American Express Membership Rewards now, you’ll be sitting on a stash of points that can transfer 1:1 or better to Virgin Atlantic miles. Then the next time we see a 25% Citi to Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus like in March 2016 or a 30% Amex to Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus like in May 2016, you can transfer your points.

Right now the American Express Business Platinum is offering up to 100,000 bonus points. During a 30% transfer bonus, that would be 130,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, enough for 13 one ways from the Northeast US to the UK.

The Citi Prestige is offering 40,000 bonus ThankYou points. During a 25% transfer bonus, that would be enough for five one ways from the Northeast US to the UK.

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Bottom Line

I have always thought the value with Virgin Atlantic miles was in booking

  1. one way awards
  2. in economy or Premium Economy to London
  3. with Citi or Amex points
  4. transferred during a transfer bonus.

That minimizes taxes and fuel surcharges, which are higher returning from the UK than going to it, and gets you to a great city (London) with tons of low cost carrier flights to the rest of Europe (from where you can return with miles that don’t collect fuel surcharges.)

The good news is that those awards, by and large, will get cheaper for bookings made January 16, 2017 or later.

However, some awards get more expensive then, so book your 2017 travel with Virgin Atlantic now if your preferred award is going up in price in two months.


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3 COMMENTS

    • The Virgin Atlantic award chart prices awards to and from London. If you want to connect in London, but start and end somewhere else, you basically pay for two awards: Los Angeles to London + London to wherever else you want to go that Virgin Atlantic flies. And to be clear, it’s not fuel surcharges you’re trying to avoid. It’s government taxes that are higher departing out of London.

  1. OK, GTK regarding extra segments, I suppose investigation of pricing from nearby European destinations is worthwhile. That is assuming that it can in fact knock off the APD. Seems like it should work if segment is on the same record and < 24 hours.

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