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One of TPG‘s favorite ways to book Delta award flights is through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. Not only are the rates generally much cheaper than using Delta SkyMiles, but Flying Club is also a transfer partner of all major points currencies — making it easy to accumulate miles from different sources for these cheap redemptions.
To make it even better, now through September 12, 2018, American Express and Virgin Atlantic are teaming up to offer a 30% transfer bonus when transferring Membership Rewards points to Flying Club miles. This opens a great sweet spot: transatlantic business-class flights for just 39,000 Membership Rewards points each way.
For reference, Delta now charges at least 82,000 SkyMiles for the exact same seat. United charges 60,000 miles one-way in business class on its own aircraft or 70,000 one-way on partners. American Airlines AAdvantage charges 57,500 miles one-way between the US and Europe — but you have to battle slim availability on AA flights and high fuel surcharges on British Airways flights.
Interested in visiting Japan instead? You can use this same Flying Club-Delta partnership to get cheap awards during the transfer bonus. However, there’s an even-better option: Flying Club’s partnership with ANA which lets you score round-trip award flights between US and Japan from 54,000 Membership Rewards points in business class or 70,000 in first class.
While Delta has some solid business-class products on its A330s and not-yet-retrofit 777s, the best way to fly Delta business class is in its new Delta One Suites. Currently, you’ve got three route options to fly this product across the Atlantic: Detroit (DTW)-Amsterdam (AMS) on Delta’s Airbus A350, Minneapolis (MSP)-Paris (CDG) and Atlanta (ATL)-Paris (CDG) on Delta’s retrofit 777s which are scheduled from December 13, 2018 to March 30, 2019.
Are you sold on booking this? If so, you’re going to need a few tips on how to do so. Let’s go step by step on how you can find and book these amazing awards.
1. Sign up for a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Account
First, in order to book these awards, you’re going to need a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account. Click here to sign up if you don’t already have an account.
2. Search Award Availability
Before you move any points to Virgin Atlantic, you’re going to want to search award availability and confirm you can book something that works with your travel plans.
Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t make it easy for you to search routes it doesn’t operate. When you type in a US airport in the “I’m flying from” field, it doesn’t let you select a Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS). The workaround for this is to click the location pin in the destination field, select Country/Region and manually select the destination airport.
The other issue Virgin Atlantic creates is selecting the “Pay With Miles” option. If you simply search a route like Detroit to Amsterdam, this option will be grayed out with an error saying “This route is not eligible for miles or miles plus money payment.”
I’ve found that the workaround here is to do a dummy award search for a flight that Virgin Atlantic operates (i.e. Atlanta-London). Then, select that recent search from the drop-down box and change the airports to your desired route. The Pay With Miles option will remain available.
While it’s hard to find availability for some Delta One Suite routes, there are always options at 100,000 miles on numerous dates when I check. And some dates even have multiple flights available at 100,000 miles round-trip. If Delta One Suites makes or breaks the deal, you’ll want to confirm that the Suites are available that date before moving miles.
3. Transfer MR Points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
While you can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Marriott Rewards, we are going to focus on American Express Membership Rewards due to the transfer bonus running now through September 12, 2018:
To make the transfer, log in to your American Express account, navigate to the point transfer page and select “Transfer Points” under the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club tile. In our experience, Amex MR transfer to Flying Club instantaneously. You’ll want to transfer 39,000 Membership Rewards points to get enough Flying Club miles for a one-way or 77,000 MR points for a round-trip or two one-ways.
If you need to stock up on Membership Rewards, some top options are The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, and American Express® Business Gold Card.
4. Book Flights With Flying Club Miles
Once the miles are in your account, it’s time to book. Select your flight option from the search results and then click “Next Step” on the right side of the screen.
Confirm the flight selection on the next screen and click “Next Step” again.
Log in to your account on the next screen, if you aren’t already logged in. Then, complete your purchase.
Remember to use a credit card with trip delay and baggage insurance protection. Top choices are the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 6+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay), Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay) and the Citi Premier Card (12+ hour delay).
While Virgin Atlantic’s website isn’t the easiest to use, booking award flights with Flying Club can help you take advantage of great sweet spots — which are currently even better thanks to the Amex transfer bonus running through September 12, 2018. So, it’s definitely worth mastering the process.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees