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Continental announced it is ending its partnership with Virgin Atlantic on February 13, 2012, which is a huge blow to the new United program, in my opinion. Virgin Atlantic has always had great award availability, which made transatlantic (and beyond) travel much more easy to book with Continental miles than almost any other mileage currency.
Per Continental.com (soon to be United.com):
Effective February 13, 2012 we will discontinue our OnePass partnership with Virgin Atlantic. Mileage accrual benefits are valid for travel through February 13, 2012. Please refer to the Mileage Credit Request Form for information regarding obtaining missing mileage credit.
For redeeming awards: OnePass reward reservations for travel on Virgin Atlantic must be confirmed and ticketed by February 13, 2012, and they are valid one year from the date ticketed. So if you were thinking of using your OnePass miles to book a flight on Virgin Atlantic, you’ve got to do it by February 13 for travel within a year or you’re out of luck.
I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic, so I’m going to use my OnePass miles to book an award on the airline before then for travel within the next few months. One of the things I like about Continental/United is that they let you route via Europe to Asia. So you can fly Virgin Atlantic Chicago to London (stop for a couple days/weeks) and then London to Hong Kong, for example for only 65,000 miles in economy or 120,000 in business class. Continental/United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards, both of which have current 50,000 limited time sign-up bonuses.
Once this partnership ends, you can still book Virgin Atlantic awards with other partners, such as:
1. Using ANA miles, which will still be possible thanks to the airlines’ continuing partnership, though you’ll still have to pay steep fuel surcharges ($400+).
2. Transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic and using those to book travel, though again, you’ll still have those fuel charges levied on the ticket. They often run transfer bonuses, which can make this worthwhile.
Not great, but still, these are better than no options at all.
There’s nothing worse than a breakup that comes the day before Valentine’s Day, and this is one that will be hurting well into 2012.
Hat tip: Lucky.