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Virgin Atlantic Announces Lower Economy Redemptions and Better Earning Benefits

by on August 17, 2013 · 15 comments

in Virgin Atlantic

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Virgin Atlantic sent out a slew of announcements yesterday to members of its Flying Club about updates to the frequent flyer program.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 7.00.46 PM

The highlights included the following:

-100% of base flown miles even on lowest Economy fares

-Economy reward flight for less miles

- Lower fuel surcharges on long haul Economy reward flights

- Increased limit you can buy or gift miles in each calendar year from 30,000 to 100,000 miles

- No more transaction fee on Miles Booster flights (This used to be 15 GBP, or about $22.50.)

The parts of this I was most interested in was the economy awards. The fact is, these new award levels and lower fees have been in place for a while, if not advertised, but awards on Virgin Atlantic have been pricing out at them for a few months now – and at least since May or June.

Here’s the old Virgin Atlantic redemption chart:

Virgin Atlantic award miles chartAnd here is the new chart:

Virgin Atlantic Award Chart newAs you can see, there are some key differences including the fact that Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington are all new 35,000 miles roundtrip instead of 38,500, and Miami and Orlando are now 42,500 instead of 45,000 while the biggest discount is for Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have all dropped down from 47,500 to 42,500 miles roundtrip. The rest of the levels are still the same.

More importantly, however, the taxes and carrier-imposed fees have also dropped hundreds of  dollars – though they’re by no means inexpensive. To see what was really going on, I priced out a sample economy roundtrip award from Newark to London in September and got the following award:

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 6.14.21 PMFor 35,000 miles and $443 – seems like the new award chart is pretty spot on. Just for comparison’s sake, I priced out an itinerary on British Airways the same exact dates and got the following redemption:

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 6.16.01 PM40,000 Avios and $682 in taxes and fees. Not only does British Airways require 5,000 more miles, but they’ll also charge you $240 more to fly them!

Also to compare, I called up Virgin Atlantic to see about redeeming Flying Club miles on a Delta economy itinerary from JFK to London since I wasn’t finding any availability online and was able to nail down some dates in September, which the rep I got priced out at 60,000 miles and $212 – a lot more miles, but a lot fewer dollars.

If I were transferring Amex points for a redemption and trying to choose between flying Virgin and flying Delta, I might choose Virgin. I’d be saving 25,000 miles at the cost of about $230, or valuing those Amex points I’d save at about 0.9 cents each, which is a value I’d consider.

This was just a quick sample, but I suspect it will hold true across the various cities Virgin and British Airways service with flights to/from London. I can only hope that this large fee discrepancy might for once work in consumers’ favor and bring BA’s fees down as well so their award tickets don’t include outrageously high cash co-pays.

Even better would be if both carriers slashed their fees on premium economy and business/first class tickets, too. Ah well, dare to dream.

The other bit of good news is that all paid tickets will earn at least 100% of base miles. In the past, discount economy tickets in E, Q, V, X, N and O classes all earned just 50% of base miles, while you had to buy a Y, B, R, L, U or M economy ticket for 100% miles and that could be hundreds of dollars more expensive. Now at least everyone on the flight is earning at least the miles flown.

All in all, I’d say these are positive and much-needed changes, but I’d like to see those carrier-imposed fees come down even further. What do you think about the changes? Do they make you more likely to fly Virgin Atlantic?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    I actually am more likely to fly them now, LHR-IAD/LHR-EWR are short flights that I’d fly in coach for the right price

  • Andrew

    I guess it depends on the value of your UR/MR miles and your available cash. At first I balked at those fees until an award flight SFO->LHR for United and BA. I was surprised to find it was about the same or cheaper for Virgin.

    From a UR perspective, it’s 60k + $190 for a saver economy ticket on United and 50k miles + $685 for BA. If you adjust it to 42.5k miles and assign the value of a UR point to $0.02 then you are “paying” $540 for United and $835 for BA.

    As far as economy goes Virgin is looking like a better deal. For a college student like me whose cash poor and points rich United would still be my choice. But when I’m down with school and working (hopefully) I would definitely give Virgin another look.

  • Robert

    I guess, I’d still prefer to use more miles with United which I certainly may accumulate easier and faster. Not only am I spending less than $200 for taxes but also I can add a weekend stop-over in any place in EU.
    On the other hand, I might change my mind when I get tired of flying with LH for most of the time :)

  • Rick

    Can I use VA miles on any Delta flight (assuming availability)?

  • tassojunior

    Has VS also lowered partner economy awards?

    To see their partner award amounts you have to switch to the UK site from the US one. For some weird reason they don’t show partner reward amounts on the US site.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes.

  • thepointsguy

    It doesn’t look that way – I called in and got the amounts listed above.

  • John Graziano

    Very nice to see a program that is not devaluing miles.

  • Lea

    The VA American Express credit card application seems to be dead. Any idea how to ramp up Hilton points, now that VA and Hawaiian Airlines credit cards are no longer available.

  • BobChi

    I see readily available cash fares of $886 for your example. So one would get 1.27 cents per mile on that redemption (after taking out the fees). I think that’s quite poor. I’m not at all tempted to participate in this program yet. I do agree that reducing those detested “fuel surcharges” is a step in the right direction, but I’ll take notice when they get rid of them entirely.

  • Brian L.

    It’s now a Mastercard. The application links are on the VS web site.

  • rj123456

    Minor steps but good to see an airline deviating from the steady drumbeat of devaluations. Unfortunately I doubt the changes are big enough to shame the Boundlessly Avaricious (hint, BA) dominant UK carrier to reduce their ridiculous fees and surcharges. Also noticed AF/KLM made some similar tweaks to their fees.

    How does the new Virgin fee structure compare with LH?

  • Jamie

    Virgin Atlantic is a very decent economy product. This definitely makes me more likely to use it. We flew with them last summer and really enjoyed it. if we were wanting to go to the UK, but only had enough points to fly coach, then Virgin would be my airline of choice.

  • Pingback: Discounted Awards on Virgin Atlantic – 25,000 Miles Roundtrip to London | The Points Guy()

  • Sven

    are there any other airliners that lowered their redemptions?

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