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It seems like October is quite the month for mileage specials with United, American and US Airways all running offers. Virgin America is also running a 50% bonus on purchased miles until October 26, 2012. The Elevate program is a hybrid fixed value/ traditional frequent flyer programs – when you redeem on Virgin America you can use points for any flight, but when redeeming on partners there is an award chart and availability is limited.
Redeem for Virgin America flights
When you redeem for Virgin America flights, you’ll get between 1.6 and 2.3 cents’ value per point, depending on which day of the week you travel. So a $460 JFK-LAX economy flight might be as low as 20,000 points. The benefits of this quasi-fixed-value redemption system is that you can book any flight and you don’t have to worry about a horrible redemption where you get little value out of your points. On the negative side, booking expensive tickets, especially in first class, gets very pricy. That same JFK-LAX in first class might cost $3,450, which would require 150,000 points (versus just 50,000 on other carriers like United).
Redeem on Partners
Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are both partners and you can use the calculator on this page to figure out how many points you’ll need. A sample Los Angeles to Sydney itinerary in business class costs 80,000 points and $849 in taxes and fees. If you are buying miles at 3.5 cents a pop, you are essentially purchasing that flight for $2,800 + $849 = $3,649- not so bad considering those flights are generally well above $5,000. That being said, you are subject to award availability and you don’t earn miles on award redemptions, plus the kicker is that Virgin America only lets you buy up to 20,000 points per calendar year (30,000 with this 50% bonus).
I’m not jumping all over this, but there could be value for those who are looking to use Elevate points on premium partner awards. Remember that Virgin America is also an American Express transfer partner, albeit at a 2:1 ratio, but they have run a couple transfer bonuses, which can make the value proposition a little bit more enticing.