Advertisement

Comparing Current Amex Transfer Bonuses To British Airways And Virgin Atlantic

by on October 15, 2013 · 10 comments

in American Express, British Airways, Credit Cards, Virgin Atlantic

Yesterday, I reported that American Express launched two simultaneous transfer bonuses starting today, October 15, 2013. From now through December 31, 2013, Amex will be offering a 20% bonus on points transfers to partner British Airways. Also starting and running just through November 30, 2013, Amex will be offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. There’s no need to register for these bonuses as they will just be automatically hard coded into the transfer pages for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic respectively.

As I promised shortly after the news broke, I wanted to go into more detail about these transfer bonuses along with ideas on when they could be worth taking advantage of and in what class of travel.

In general, I think BA Avios are more valuable than Virgin Atlantic miles and if I had to choose one or the other I would choose them. However, Virgin does have great availability on certain routes and arguably their Upper Class is a more enjoyable product, plus the transfer bonus is a full 10% more than to British Airways, so it is definitely something to consider.

Partner redemptions also often provide great values, so I’ll be taking a look at those in a fture post, but here is a side by side comparison of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic redemptions.

PRODUCT COMPARISON

British Airways

The British Airways Boeing 747-400.

The British Airways Boeing 747-400.

BA’s 747 comes in 4 classes with either a 299-seat or a 345-seat layout. First class has 14 open seats with a pitch of 78 inches and width of 21; Club World (Business) has 70 lie-flat seats with a pitch of 73 and width of 25; World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy) has standard 30 seats with a pitch of 38 and width of 18.5, and World Traveler (Economy) has 185 with a pitch of 31 and width of 17.5.

Just to note, BA’s Club World (business class) has included fully lie-flat beds for several years now and on their 747-400, they have 8 seats across in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration which really makes for cramped seating and very minimal privacy.

Each seat has a personal TV with their High Life Entertainment system of movies, on-demand TV and music, along with a full bar of drinks, meals served and in-seat power. Premium Economy has the extra perk of a blanket and amenity kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, flight socks and eye mask; Business offers access to private lounges and spa treatments, along with a luxury amenity kit with Elemis skincare products, a larger 10.4 inch flat screen TV and noise-cancelling headphones. While First has private, spacious suites with a mattress, duvet and pajamas, along with premium skincare products including eye gel, lip balm and moisturizer in a signature Anya Hindmarch bag.

You save using Amex points to fly in British Airways' First Class Suites.

You save using Amex points to fly in British Airways’ First Class Suites.

If you are lucky enough to fly in British Airways’ new 787-8 Dreamliner, however, you will get to experience a lighter, quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft that has enhancements throughout the cabin. As of October 1, 2013, the Dreamliner flies from London to Newark, and has 35 flatbed seats in Club World (with a pitch of 73 inches and a width of 20), 25 seats in World Traveler Plus (with a pitch of 38 inches and a width of 18.5 in a 2-3-2 formation), and 154 in World Traveler (with a pitch of 31 inches and a width of 17.5 in a 3-3-3 formation).

Windows are 30% larger than on most aircraft and brightness can be controlled with the touch of a button instead of pulling shades down. In-flight entertainment comes on a TV screen 35% larger than before with 130 movies, 650 TV shows, 550 audio albums, and 225 radio shows. There is also 110V in-seat laptop power ports and 2 USB power sockets in Club World and World Traveler Plus. The pod seats in Club World are in a staggered formation with some facing the front and others the rear, and a privacy screen that can be pulled down between neighboring seats.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 747

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747

Also running the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340 aircraft to and from Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic’s 747 has three seat classes: Upper Class with 44 lie-flat seats with a length of 78 inches and a width of 22; Premium Economy with 62 recliner seats with a pitch of 38 and a width of 21; and 261 Economy seats with a pitch of 31 and a width of 17.5. Each seat has personal TVs airing Virgin’s Vera entertainment system, but only premium and upper class have in-seat power. All classes have a full bar and meal service, while premium fliers get stainless steel cutlery, a linen tablecloth and an amenity kit, and upper get pre-flight champagne, gourmet dining, a personal suite with a 10.4 inch TV, access to their Clubhouses, private security at Heathrow, and chauffeur transfer services.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Is Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class suite worth your Amex points?

Virgin Atlantic recently rolled out its new upper class suite on flights from Heathrow to New York (along with other routes to the US, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East and Asia), featuring one of the longest lie-flat beds in business class and a new comfort system and extra padded sleep sheet. Each suite has direct aisle access and a window built in to give you more light. In-flight entertainment comes care of 2.1 inch touchscreen monitor and handset, loaded with our their new entertainment system called JAM so you can connect your phone, USB stick or tablet to access your own content and charge your device. In addition, 15 of their new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will start operation across the network in 2014, bringing larger windows and higher ceilings to the 250-290 passengers in upper class, premium economy and economy. The two-aisle planes are made of 50% composite materials and boast of new levels of fuel efficiency and noise emissions per seat for a quieter and more fuel-efficient flight.

So in terms of First Class, only British Airways offers it – clear choice. With business class, you can choose between British Airways’ Club World and Virgin’s Upper Class. If you’re flying a 747, I’d choose Virgin’s new Upper Class over BA’s Club World any day because those seats are packed in so tight at 8 across, but I might just be tempted to try out BA’s new Newark-London service aboard the 787. The Economy seat dimensions are the same between the two airlines, and these redemptions tend not to be a great value thanks to the hefty fees and taxes flying in and out of London.

Now let’s just look at the points transfer options to see which might be bets for you.

Redeeming Amex Points For Flights On British Airways 

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in Economy: 40,000 Avios and $688.75 in taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 34,000 Membership Rewards points with this 20% transfer bonus points promo.
British AIrways Business Class Award JFK-LHR

British Airways Economy Class Award JFK-LHR

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in Premium Economy: 60,000 Avios and $796.60 in taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 50,000 Membership Rewards points with this 20% transfer bonus points promo.
British Airways Premium Economy Award JFK-LHR

British Airways Premium Economy Award JFK-LHR

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in Business Class: 80,000 Avios and $1,166.60 in taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 67,000 Membership Rewards points with this 20% transfer bonus points promo.
British AIrways Business Class Award JFK-LHR

British Airways Business Class Award JFK-LHR

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in First Class: 120,000 Avios and $1,166.60 in taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 100,000 Membership Rewards points with this 20% transfer bonus points promo.
British AIrways First Class Award JFK-LHR

British Airways First Class Award JFK-LHR

Redeeming Amex Points For Flights On Virgin Atlantic

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in Economy: 35,000 miles plus $449.90 taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 27,000 Membership Rewards points with this 30% transfer bonus points promo.
Virgin JFK-LHR Economy

Virgin Atlantic Economy Award JFK-LHR

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in Premium Economy: 55,000 miles plus 757.70 taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 43,000 Membership Rewards points with this 30% transfer bonus points promo.
Virgin JFK-LHR Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Award JFK-LHR

  • Flying JFK-LHR Roundtrip in First Class: 80,000 miles plus 1,127.70 taxes and fees. You would need to transfer 62,000 Membership Rewards points with this 30% transfer bonus points promo.
Virgin JFK-LHR Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Award JFK-LHR

Side By Side Comparison

So to put it all together, here are the points and taxes figures for each award side by side:

British Airways Using Amex to BA with 20% Bonus Virgin Atlantic Using Amex to VA with 30% Bonus
Economy 40,000 Avios + $688.75 34,000 Amex + $688.75 35,000 miles + $449.90 27,000 Amex + $449.90
Premium Economy 60,000 Avios +$796.60 50,000 Amex +$796.60 55,000 miles + 757.70 43,000 Amex + $757.70
Business 80,000 Avios + $1,166.60 67,000 Amex + $1,166.60 80,000 miles + 1,127.70 62,000 Amex + $1,127.70
First 120,000 Avios and $1,166.60 100,000 Amex and $1,166.60 - -

As you can see, it makes much more sense to transfer to Virgin Atlantic in each case (even when the taxes are slightly higher in Premium Economy) because the 30% transfer bonus means you’re using a lot fewer Amex points for the same redemption. That said, if you really want to fly British Airways, with the exception of an economy redemption which is prohibitively expensive thanks to the huge taxes and fees on the ticket, you won’t be spending that much more money or that many more Amex points to put it out of the question, so you can still consider which product you want to fly.

While these aren’t the most lucrative Amex transfer bonuses that we’ve seen, even recently, they’re still something to consider if you were already thinking about transferring your points to either airline, or if you were instead going to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards from your Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus accounts at a mere 1:1 ratio to either program.

In the coming days I will do partner redemptions to show where these might be good options, so stay tuned!
For more information on this topic, check out these posts: Amex Transfer Bonuses to British Airways (20%) and Virgin Atlantic (30%) Launch Tomorrow Top 10 Lesser Known Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Partners Transferring Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios Versus Cathay Pacific Asia Miles A History of Amex Transfer Bonuses

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Danny

    I feel like you’ve made a mistake here, or else I’m not seeing something correctly.

    At http://www.britishairways.com/travel/avios-calculator/public/en_us

    I see 20000 Avois gets you an economy ticket form JFK to LHR. 40000 gets a business class ticket, etc. The fees are much lower as well.

    Is that site incorrect?

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, those mileage redemption’s are only for one-way flights.

  • Mike

    Can I transfer AMex points to a BA Avios account with a different name?

  • troyhouse

    Wish there was a delta offer soon…!!

  • BobChi

    One-way redemptions are common, often for mix-and-match returns with another one-way on the same or another airline or for connecting to ongoing award or paid tickets to other locations. The availability of one-ways is a key factor I consider in evaluating the comparative worth of points across programs.

  • Larry Hertel

    I just bought 850,000 AMEX points from my in-laws and have one shot to transfer them. How should I split them up betweem BA and Virgin? Any thoughts?

  • clivus

    Virgin and BA charge horrendous extras and fees for travel from US to England. Why is that when I can pay taxes and fees of as little as $2.50 for a one way to SE Asia?

  • Chris

    I am wondering the same thing as my goal is to get Amex points from my account to my wife’s HHonors account without incurring extra charges.

    Is it possible to tranfer MR to my spouse’s VA account? Or does VA charge me to transfer points to my spouse’s VA account?

    Or, if that’s not possible, can I transfer VA miles to my spouses Hhonors account?

  • channonh

    More than anything, I think this analysis shows the destroyed value of miles while flying through London. While 67,000 miles for JFK-LHR business class is a great, $1,167 in costs is horrendous. I just flew business class to Europe on UAL/partners for 100k miles plus $84 in taxes. Those extra 33k miles saved me $1,083 in “fuel surcharges” and London taxes, a whopping 3.3 cents per mile. Without the current transfer bonus, that BA ticket costs 80,000 miles and $1,167; the calculation is 5.4 cents per mile. This is why I avoid London like the plague, and no longer bother with miles from airlines whose route networks obligate such a flight path.

  • channonh

    Why? Of what use are Delta miles?

Print This Page