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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.
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