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UK-based Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club isn’t well known here in the United States. 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 25,000-mile business class flights to Africa, there are plenty of gems in the Flying Club program.
And those gems just got even more valuable. American Express and Virgin Atlantic have teamed up to offer a 30% transfer bonus when transferring Membership Rewards points to Flying Club miles now through July 1, 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.
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, you’re going to need to know a few tricks before you can successfully search and book these flights online.
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. Flying Club is a transfer partner of most of the major point currencies:
- American Express Membership Rewards (1:1, instant transfer) — plus a 30% transfer bonus now through July 1
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1, instant transfer)
- Citi ThankYou Points (1:1, instant transfer)
- Marriott Rewards (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 points to transfer to Flying Club. If you need to add to any of these point balances, here’s some great options:
- 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 Patinum 100k points bonus offer through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at anytime).
- American Express® Gold Card: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 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 or get a 40,000-point bonus via a referral from a friend or family member (offer subject to change at anytime).
- 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: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Citi Premier Card : 60,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
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.
Redemption Rates and Sweet Spots
Flying Club has a few different Delta award charts on its website, but you’ll want to mostly 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.
In case you glazed over them, here are some of the sweet spot redemptions on Delta-operated flights (note that all Amex amounts are rounded up to the nearest thousand, since transfers to Flying Club must be in increments of 1,000 points):
- 50,000 miles for business class from the US to Europe (each way) — or 39k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 22,500 miles for first class intra-US, including transcontinental Delta One routes (each way) — or 18k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 60,000 miles for business class from the US to Asia (each way) — or 47k Amex points during the transfer bonus
- 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 individual flight.
How to Search
Let’s just say this up front: searching on Virgin Atlantic’s website can be very frustrating.
However, there are a couple of tricks that make it possible. 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 dropdown, 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 iterations. 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.
Here are some examples of the Delta flights you can book with Flying Club miles (pricing and availability accurate at time of writing).
First, it’s always great to get lie-flat business class seats on domestic flights. And one of these options is between Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL) on Delta’s 767-300. Here’s an option that you can book now for 22,500 Flying Club miles plus $5.60 in taxes/fees:
If you were to try to book the same flight through Delta, it’d set you back 42,000 SkyMiles plus $5.60:
For flights to Europe, there’s scattered availability between Detroit (DTW) and Amsterdam (AMS) on Delta’s A330 lie-flat business class for 50,000 miles and $5.60:
Again, booking the same flight with Delta SkyMiles is going to be a lot more expensive — costing 86,000 SkyMiles instead of the 50,000 Flying Club miles:
There’s even some availability for one-way flights from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo (NRT) on Delta’s new 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 exact same flight at a lower award rate, and in some cases, the savings can be substantial.
Does this always work?
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.The second you add another segment to your Delta award ticket booked through Virgin Atlantic, you’ll add another 12,500 miles. At this rate, you may wind up paying much more for the award when booking through Flying Club.
In addition, Delta doesn’t open up all the award space that appears on its own website to partners, so you won’t see all of the options with Flying Club that you have when booking with Delta SkyMiles. If the itinerary you want isn’t available through Virgin Atlantic, you may be stuck redeeming Delta miles for the trip rather than Flying Club miles.
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 and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.
Delta’s decision to remove its award charts in 2015 has led to some incredibly high award ticket prices (see this post for some examples). However, there are ways to book these flights for significantly fewer miles that what Delta would charge, and one of the best options is through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. It’s always worth a few minutes to check Virgin Atlantic’s website before confirming an award ticket on Delta, though the reverse holds true as well: Make sure that you check on Delta’s website before booking an award with Flying Club. With most nonstop options, Flying Club is likely to be cheaper — but it’s worth checking.
Know before you go.
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