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American Express has been offering a 30% bonus on all Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club for a few weeks now but the offer expires tonight (30 November) so there isn’t much time left to make the most of this.
While it’s true to say that Virgin Atlantic’s flying club isn’t the most inspiring of rewards programs (you need a lot of miles for long-haul redemptions and the surcharges on award tickets are high) there’s a very good reason you should be considering this bonus.
Most rewards programs have a sweet spot buried somewhere deep within them and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s sweet spot are award redemptions on ANA (Air Nippon Airways).
ANA offers some truly excellent premium cabin products and for some reason you can great value by booking them with Virgin Flying Club miles.
Not that long ago Virgin’s award chart for flights on ANA was distance based but now it’s a region-based award chart….and that’s very good news for us.
Click To Enlarge
The miles required per the award chart above are for roundtrip travel as one-way awards are not bookable on ANA using Virgin Flying Club miles.
The highlights here are (Business Class/First Class):
- New York to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 90,000 miles/110,000 miles
- Europe to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles
Ordinarily Amex Membership Rewards points would transfer over to Virgin at a ratio of 1,000 : 1,000 but, now that there’s a 30% bonus in play, that ratio is 1,000 : 1,300.
What this means is that, in terms of Membership Rewards points, the award flights I listed above now look like this (Business Class/First Class):
- New York to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP / 93,000 MRP
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 70,000 MRP / 85,000 MRP
- Europe to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP / 93,000 MRP
That’s fantastic value!
Note: I’ve rounded up to the nearest thousand as Membership Rewards points can only be transferred over in thousands.
Things To Look Out For
Sadly it’s not all good news as Virgin has introduced one annoying clause into its rules:
If a journey requires a connecting flight or stopover to reach the destination, miles are charged for each sector.
What this means is that a Business Class itinerary of Los Angeles – Tokyo – Hong Kong – Tokyo – Los Angeles (for example) will be split into two separate awards:
- Los Angeles – Tokyo – Los Angeles: 90,000 miles
- Tokyo – Hong Kong – Tokyo: 45,000 miles
At a cost of 135,000 miles this itinerary is no longer such great value so you should look to avoid stopovers wherever possible.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the many airlines that now add surcharges to award bookings so all ANA awards will come with an added cash component.
The good news is that the surcharges aren’t as horrendous as you may think.
I use the ITA Matrix flight search tool to estimate (quite accurately most of the time) how much the surcharges should be.
Taking a New York – Tokyo roundtrip Business Class flight as an example:
Per this screenshot the surcharges would only be around $88 although I have seen them up to $100 higher.
Less than $200 in surcharges on a great Business Class award is fantastic and not something that should be putting anyone off.
With a 30% bonus for transferring Membership rewards to Virgin Flying Club you could score some amazing redemptions on ANA and fly in a great deal of comfort.
Don’t forget that you can use an ANA redemption to fly the long-haul routes to/from Japan and then use Avios to book some excellent value short-haul flights within the region to visit other destinations too – you don’t have to confine your trip to Japan.