How to book cheap Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic Flying Club may not be well known here in the U.S. But if you’re looking for cheap award redemptions, it’s worth getting to know the program. From cheap premium-cabin awards to Japan to 45,000-mile business class flights to the South Pacific, there are plenty of gems in the Flying Club program.
And these gems just got even more valuable. American Express and Virgin Atlantic have teamed up to offer a targeted 30% transfer bonus for transferring Membership Rewards to Flying Club miles now through Dec. 28, 2019. So, today we are we’re going to circle back to how you can score Delta-operated award flights for cheap through Flying Club.
Collecting Flying Club miles
Before we get into how to use the miles, it’s important to note just how easy it is to collect Flying Club miles — even without flying Virgin Atlantic or its partners. Flying Club is a transfer partner of most of the major point currencies:
- American Express Membership Rewards (1:1, instant transfer) — plus a targeted 30% transfer bonus now through Dec. 28, 2019
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1, instant transfer)
- Citi ThankYou Points (1:1, instant transfer)
- Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring 60,000 points, <48 hour transfer time)
That means that you’ve got plenty of options for how to earn transferable points to transfer to Flying Club. Here are some great cards to add to these point balances:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. You may also be targeted for an Amex Platinum 100k points bonus offer through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time). $550 Annual Fee (See Rates & Fees)
- American Express® Gold Card: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. You may also be targeted for a 50,000-point welcome bonus through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time). $250 Annual Fee (See Rates & Fees)
- American Express® Green Card: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $150 Annual Fee (See Rates & Fees)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®: You can earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles directly by signing up for the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard. Currently, you can earn up to 80,000 bonus miles within the first year:
- 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 or more in purchases within 90 days of account opening
- 2,500 miles for each of the first two authorized users added to your card, up to a total of 5,000 bonus miles
- 7,500 anniversary miles after you spend a minimum of $15,000 with your card within your anniversary year
- An additional 7,500 anniversary miles after you spend a total of $25,000 with your card within your anniversary year
Most airline cobranded cards aren’t worth using as a non-bonus spending card as they only earn 1x mile per dollar spent. However, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard earns 1.5x miles for every dollar spent. At TPG valuations of 1.5 cents per mile, that means you should get a return of at least 2.25 cents per dollar spent.
Boost your miles: If you’ve flown Virgin Atlantic — on a cash or award ticket — check to see if you can buy a Mileage Booster to pick up some cheap Flying Club miles. There’s a periodic promotion that drops the price under 1 cent per mile.
Virgin Atlantic Delta award chart
While Delta got rid of its award charts years ago, Flying Club has stated award rates for Delta-operated flights. There are a few different Delta award charts on Flying Club’s website, but you’ll want to focus on this one.
Note that all miles shown in the table are for a round-trip. One-way flights are available for half of the stated round-trip price.
Sweet spots for Delta flights
In case you glazed over them, here are some of the sweet-spot redemptions on Delta-operated flights:
- 50,000 miles for business class from the U.S. to Europe (each way) — or 39k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 22,500 miles for first class intra-U.S., including transcontinental Delta One routes (each way) — or 18k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 60,000 miles for business class from the U.S. to Asia (each way) — or 47k Amex points during the transfer bonus, including Delta One Suites on Delta’s A350
- 20,000 miles for economy to Hawaii (each way) — or 16k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 37,500 miles for first class to Hawaii (each way) — or 29k Amex points during the transfer bonus
The downside is that these prices are only available for nonstop itineraries. If you have to connect, miles are charged for each flight.
To get these excellent rates, you’re going to have to book award flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club itself. That means you’ll have to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy to Flying Club and book it directly on Virgin Atlantic’s website or over the phone.
How to search Delta flights
While Flying Club and Delta have had a partnership for years, it was a lot more of a hassle to book these tickets before Virgin Atlantic added Delta award redemptions to its website in 2017. But, even with online booking available now, you’re going to need to know a few tricks before you can successfully search and book these flights online.
First, start here and enter your origin airport. Then, search for your destination. If Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly that route, it might not show up. But, there’s a workaround — simply click the pin on the right side of the “To” box and select your country or state to be able to search other routes:
Next frustration: The radio button next to the “Pay with miles” option may be grayed out when you do this. I get around this by searching for an award flight on a route that Virgin Atlantic operates (i.e. Atlanta to London). Then I go back to the search page, select the prior award search from the drop-down, scroll down to ensure the “pay with miles” option is selected and then — finally — change the airports to ones with a Delta-operated route:
This doesn’t work all of the time, but I can usually get it to search after a couple of tries. And bear in mind that if you can’t get it to work or are trying to book a flight to/from an airport that doesn’t even appear on Flying Club’s website, you will need to call. I realize that’s a huge pain to go through that process, but given the number of miles you can potentially save on these routes, it’s worth it.
Example Flying Club awards versus Delta SkyMiles
Here are some examples of the Delta flights you can book with Flying Club miles (pricing and availability accurate at the time of writing).
For flights to Europe, there’s scattered availability between New York-JFK and Nice (NCE) on Delta’s Delta One Suites retrofit 767-400ER lie-flat business class for 50,000 miles and $5.60:
Booking the same flight with Delta SkyMiles is going to be a lot more expensive — costing 80,000 SkyMiles instead of the 50,000 Flying Club miles:
If you want to head to Asia, there’s plenty of award availability on flights from Detroit (DTW) to Beijing (PEK) on Delta’s A350 Delta One Suites business class for 60,000 miles and $5.60:
Instead of 60,000 Flying Club miles, you’d have to burn 120,000 SkyMiles for the same award flight booked through Delta:
In all of these cases, you’re able to book the same flight at a lower award rate, and in some situations, the savings can be substantial.
When you shouldn’t use Flying Club miles
That said, Flying Club isn’t the best option for all Delta award flights. Flying Club is going to charge 12,500 miles each way for a nonstop domestic flight, while Delta’s domestic award prices can drop as low as 5,000 miles each way:
Even with the Membership Rewards to Flying Club transfer bonus, it makes more sense to transfer Amex points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio and book these flights for just 5,000 points instead of transferring 10,000 to Flying Club.
If you aren’t flying a nonstop route, Flying Club isn’t likely to be the cheapest option as it adds additional miles cost for flying additional segments.
Also, Delta doesn’t open up all the award space that appears on its website to partners, so you won’t see all of the options with Flying Club that you have when booking with Delta SkyMiles. And, if Delta hasn’t released saver-award availability to partners for the flights you want, there’s no way to use Flying Club miles for that flight — even at a higher rate.
Finally, it’s also worth comparing award prices through Flying Blue as well. Even though the loyalty program of Air France, KLM and others switched to a variable award pricing model in 2018, there are some times when it’ll offer better award rates for connecting itineraries than what you’d find using both Delta SkyMiles or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.
Delta’s decision to remove its award charts in 2015 has led to some incredibly high award ticket prices. However, there are ways to book these flights for significantly fewer miles than what Delta would charge, and one of the best options is through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
It’s always worth a few minutes to check Virgin Atlantic’s website before booking an award ticket on Delta. Just remember that the reverse holds true as well: Make sure that you check on Delta’s website before booking an award with Flying Club. With many nonstop options, Flying Club is likely to be cheaper — but it’s worth checking.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.