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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.
Today we’re going to focus on 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)
- 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 a 100,000-point welcome bonus through CardMatch (offer subject to change at anytime).
- American Express® Gold Card: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first three months of card membership. You may also be targeted for a 50,000-point welcome bonus through CardMatch or get a 40,000-point bonus via a referral from a friend or family members (offer subject to change at anytime).
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months after account opening.
- Citi Premier Card: 50,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in the first three 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:
- 50,000 miles for business class from the US to Europe (each way)
- 22,500 miles for first class intra-US, including transcontinental Delta One routes (each way)
- 60,000 miles for business class from the US to Asia (each way)
- 20,000 miles for economy to Hawaii (each way)
- 37,500 miles for first class to Hawaii (each way)
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 ratio button next to “pay with miles” 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 A330. 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 43,000 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 a somewhat-reasonable 78,000 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.
However, it’s always worth a few minutes to check Virgin Atlantic’s website before confirming an award ticket on Delta, as the prices will often be much lower. And 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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