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In a bit of good news for award travelers, Virgin America has stopped adding fuel surcharges to awards on partner Virgin Australia. On a mileage basis, Virgin America’s Elevate program has long offered reasonably priced awards on Virgin Australia; however, those awards have previously incurred hefty fuel surcharges (in the $800 range), making the overall value pretty terrible.
Without those surcharges, Virgin America is suddenly a pretty attractive option for reaching Australia. Here are the mileage requirements for travel on Virgin Australia from Los Angeles to either Brisbane or Sydney:
If 25,000 points to Australia sounds like a good deal, round-trip awards are an even better value:
Note that all Virgin Australia one-way awards are subject to a $40 fee, and round-trip awards are subject to a $130 fee. That’s still a far cry from what you would have spent previously for a round-trip seat.
As TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen pointed out in his recent post on the How to Use Airline Miles for Award Travel to Sydney, Virgin America’s award chart beats the competition for flights to Australia. Now that carrier-imposed charges are out of the way, these awards are definitely worth looking into. 40,000 points in economy and 80,000 points in business class is about half of what most other carriers charge, and is basically a steal.
If you don’t already have Virgin America Elevate points, you can transfer them in from Amex Membership Rewards, or you could look into the co-branded credit cards from Comenity Bank (though the sign-up bonuses are pretty meager). Virgin America is also currently offering an 80% bonus on purchased points, so you can buy them for a shade under 2.9 cents apiece. However, you can only buy up to 20,000 points in a calendar year, so transfers from Amex are probably the best option.
Australia has long been one of the more difficult awards to book, so this could be a game changer. If you’ve been looking for a way to get to Sydney or elsewhere on the continent, and you already have enough Elevate points to book, I would jump on this opportunity quickly, because I wouldn’t be surprised if award space starts moving.
With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards