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Sweet Spot Sunday: Book short-haul Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic points

July 24 2022
8 min read
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You probably wouldn’t suspect one of the best options for booking U.S. travel to be through an airline based in the United Kingdom.

Delta Air Lines is one of three juggernauts regarding domestic flights. But the number of miles it charges for its awards is very unpredictable. That’s because it practices “dynamic pricing,” which means Delta reserves the right to charge as many miles as it wants depending on route, date, time, etc.

Virgin Atlantic is a partner of Delta. You can book Delta flights with Virgin Points — and know exactly what you’ll pay thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s Delta-specific award chart. For short-haul flights, Virgin Atlantic's prices are often cheaper than Delta's.

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And as we’ll cover in a minute, Virgin Points are significantly easier to accrue than Delta miles — making this method even more attractive for booking Delta flights. Let’s take a look.

Why it’s special

(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Virgin Atlantic offers extremely competitive prices for short-haul trips on Delta flights. Oftentimes, you can find flights for nearly half the price you’ll pay when booking directly with Delta.

Virgin Atlantic prices these award flights based on:

  • The distance you fly.
  • The number of segments you fly.

Below are the prices you’ll pay for each segment you fly.

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

The sweet spot for Delta Main Cabin is nonstop flights up to 1,000 miles. The sweet spot for Delta One/first class tends to be nonstop flights up to 500 miles.

For example, a nonstop flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta is a 373-mile journey. When booking through Virgin Atlantic, you’ll therefore pay 7,500 Virgin Points for Main Cabin and 17,500 Virgin Points for first class.

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

But if you book the same flight through Delta instead of Virgin Atlantic, you’ll spend 14,500 Delta miles in Main Cabin and 26,000 Delta miles in first class. Of course, this won't always be the case, but it's worth comparing prices every time you book a Delta award ticket.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

TPG valuations peg the value of Delta miles at 1.41 cents each, on average — so that savings is nothing to sneeze at:

  • 7,000 Delta miles each way in Main Cabin equals $98.70 in savings.
  • 8,500 Delta miles each way in first class equals $119.85 in savings.

Related: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic points

How to book

Step 1. Estimate your flight distance

Again, Virgin Atlantic implements a distance-based award chart— and the sweet spot is usually for flights of 1,000 miles or less. You can quickly estimate the distance of your flight by entering your origin and destination airports into Great Circle Mapper. We’ll search for a flight from Minneapolis to Charlotte.

(Screenshot from gcmap.com)

Step 2. Enter your information on the Virgin Atlantic website

To book an award flight, you’ll have to log in to your Virgin Atlantic account. You can search for flights without logging in, however.

Enter your origin and destination, dates, etc. And make sure you’ve toggled the price to “Points.”

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

Step 3. Find availability on the Virgin Atlantic site

The Virgin Atlantic site is a bit quirky in that it won’t show any availability unless the date you search contains available awards during that same week.

You can save yourself a bit of trial and error if you begin your search on the Delta website. Delta has a fabulous “Price Calendar” that lets you see a month of availability at a glance.

Don’t bother searching on the Virgin Atlantic site for dates that aren’t marked “LOWEST” — they almost certainly won’t be available. The “LOWEST” dates aren’t all available on the Virgin Atlantic site, either — but many of them are.

Step 4. Select your dates

Once you find availability through Virgin Atlantic, a calendar week will appear. Hopefully your desired dates are available, but you may have to be a little flexible. Virgin Atlantic’s prices are way cheaper, but they also don’t have as much award inventory to choose from.

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

Note: You can view Virgin Atlantic availability in one-month increments, though you’ll have to tamper with the page’s URL. Simply change the word “dates” to “calendar.” Hat tip to Frequent Miler for this trick.

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

Step 5. Confirm and pay

This particular trip between Minneapolis and Charlotte is a nonstop flight of 930 miles. That means you’ll pay 8,500 points in Main Cabin and 27,500 points in first class.

(Screenshot from virginatlantic.com)

For the sake of comparison, the same flight when booked through Delta is much more expensive for Main Cabin (14,500 miles) but slightly cheaper for first class (24,000 miles).

(Screenshot from delta.com)

How to earn points for this award

Unlike Delta, Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of all the flexible rewards currencies. If you have any of the following points, you’ve got Virgin Points:

Delta is only a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott — so Delta miles are not as easy to amass.

If you’re low on any of these flexible points, we recommend the following cards:

Virgin Atlantic also has its own credit card — the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard — which comes with up to 50,000 points within the first year of account opening. You can read our Virgin Atlantic Mastercard review for more details.

Bottom line

If you intend to book a short flight on Delta, it’s worth taking a look at the prices you’ll pay with Virgin Points before booking your flight with Delta miles. The sweet spot tends to be flights with a length of 1,000 miles or less.

It’s worth mentioning that you should also never go directly to the Virgin Atlantic website, as Delta often has random rock-bottom deals that are even cheaper than Virgin Atlantic. You may occasionally find flights for just 4,000 Delta miles one-way. Always compare prices before booking through either of these sites.

Feature photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images.

Featured photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees