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UPDATE 4 June 2019: USD Cost now added
Virgin Atlantic has launched a miles sale which is offering bonuses of up to 40% through 30 June 2019. Don’t let your dislike of Virgin’s often outrageous surcharges put you off buying miles because, if you know where to look, there’s a fantastic use for Virgin Atlantic miles that offers truly great value.
There are 5 tiers to the latest Virgin Atlantic miles sale and this is what they look like:
- Buy 1,000 miles – 0% bonus
- Buy 2,000 – 9,000 miles – 15% bonus
- Buy 10,000 – 29,000 miles – 20% bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 69,000 miles – 30% bonus
- Buy 70,000 – 150,000 miles – 40% bonus
- Buy Miles purchases must be made by 30 June 2019
- Up to 40% bonus is only available on miles purchases up to 150,000.
- Bonus miles will be credited upon completion of purchase.
- Offer subject to change.
- All other Flying Club Terms and Conditions apply.
Annoyingly, I don’t have access to the US Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account I control so I can only see the offer for the UK-based account I have. Fortunately, @Somempire was kind enough to send me a screenshot from a US account so I can do the math for anyone looking to buy miles at the cheapest rate.
I strongly suspect the tiers in the US sale will be identical to the ones shown above but, as I can’t be sure of that, you can check for yourself via this link (assuming you have a US Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account).
As far as UK Virgin Atlantic Flying Club accounts go this is what you’ll need to know:
Because Virgin Atlantic adds a £15 ‘handling fee’ to every transaction the cost per mile will vary depending on the bonus on offer and the number of miles you’re buying – the more miles you buy the less you pay per mile.
If you were to buy the maximum number of miles allowed it would cost you £2,265 and you would net 210,000 miles:
210,000 miles at a cost of £2,265 works out to a cost/mile of £0.0108.
For US-based accounts, buying 150,000 miles will see the purchaser earn 210,000 miles (after the bonus is accounted for) at a cost of $4,075:
210,000 miles at a cost of $4,050 works out to a cost/mile of ~$0.0194
Buying Virgin miles from a UK-based account is considerably cheaper.
Is It Worth Buying Miles In This Sale
If you don’t have a plan for how to use the miles you shouldn’t be buying miles at all – stockpiling miles in the hope of using them down the line is a bad idea as you never know when a loyalty program will devalue its offering.
Personally, I don’t like using Virgin Atlantic Miles for travel on Virgin Atlantic (with one exception) because of the high surcharges that Virgin likes to add to award bookings….but I LOVE using them for premium cabin awards on ANA.
The Virgin Atlantic ANA award chart is a region-based chart and looks like this:
The mileage costs shown are for roundtrip travel as ANA one-way awards are not bookable with Virgin Flying Club miles.
The highlights in this award chart here are as follows:
- Europe to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles (Business Class/First Class)
- New York to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 90,000 miles/110,000 miles
The current Virgin Atlantic sale allows you to buy enough miles for any of those awards and this is how much those awards will cost assuming you buy miles in this sale at £0.0108 each (UK) or $0.0194 (USA)
Business Class Fares (UK pricing/USA pricing)
- Europe to Tokyo: £1,086/$1,843 + taxes & fees
- New York to Tokyo: £1,086/$1,843 + taxes & fees
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: £972/$1,746 + taxes & fees
First Class Fares (UK pricing/USA pricing)
- Europe to Tokyo: £1,296/$2,328 + taxes & fees
- New York to Tokyo: £1,296/$2,328 + taxes & fees
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: £1,188/$2,134 + taxes & fees
If you’re buying Virgin Atlantic miles in GBP some of these fares are fantastic and even if you’re buying for a US-based account there’s pretty good value to be had here….even with the taxes and fees added in (I’ll come on to those in a moment).
When you consider that it costs 135,000 – 155,000 Flying Club miles to fly round trip between the West Coast and Europe in Business Class on Virgin Atlantic or Delta these ANA awards look amazing.
Sadly it’s not all good news. There’s a downside to Virgin using a region-based award chart for ANA redemptions.
Per Virgin Atlantic:
What this means is that indirect routings now cost a lot more because two awards are required.
Take, for example, New York – Japan – South Korea in Business Class. To book this with Virgin Flying Club miles will take two award bookings:
First you have to book the New York – Japan segments for 95,000 miles and then you have to book the Japan – South Korea segments for a further 35,000 miles.
The total roundtrip cost is 130,000 miles and that’s not such a great deal anymore.
It’s impossible to write about booking awards through the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club without discussing surcharges….so here goes.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the increasing number of airlines that add surcharges to their awards and unfortunately this extends to ANA awards too.
The good news is that, unlike the surcharges added to awards for flights on Virgin or Delta, the surcharges on ANA awards aren’t horrendous.
I use ITA Matrix flight search tool to estimate (quite accurately most of the time) how much the surcharges should be and you should be aware that the surcharges will vary (often significantly) depending on the departure point.
A London – Tokyo roundtrip Business Class flight would attract approximately £356/$452 in taxes and fees:
A Paris – Tokyo roundtrip Business Class flight would attract approximately £229/$290 in taxes and fees:
And a Los Angeles – Tokyo roundtrip Business Class flight would attract approximately £214 ($270) in taxes and fees:
The fares you’re seeing are actual cash fares that I’ve selected randomly but, the items inside the red rectangle represent all the taxes and fees you can expect to pay on an award with the same itinerary.
If you’re buying Virgin miles for a UK account even the high surcharges out of London aren’t enough to make these awards a poor deal and, even if you’re buying for a US-based account, it’s hard to argue against paying ~$2,016 for a roundtrip Business Class fare between LA and Tokyo or $2,598 for ANA First Class between New York and Tokyo.
Searching For & Booking ANA Awards
You can’t book ANA awards via Virgin Atlantic’s website nor can you search for them so you have to look to other Star Alliance airline sites for help….but don’t buy any miles until you’ve checked that award are actually available for the dates you can fly.
I find ANA’s website a bit clunky so my go-to sites are Aeroplan or United.com which are both easy to use and quite reliable when it comes to showing true award availability.
Once you’ve found an award you’d like to book you’ll have to call up your local Virgin Atlantic reservations line who should be able to book your chosen itinerary.
I don’t like using Flying Club miles for awards on Virgin Atlantic because of the high number of miles needed and because of the surcharges imposed. I’m also not a big fan of using Virgin Flying Club miles for flights on Delta because, despite the fact that some awards cost fewer Flying Club Miles than SkyMiles, I find the surcharges unpalatable….but award bookings on ANA are a whole other story.
Using Flying Club Miles for premium cabin award bookings on ANA can be a fantastic use of Flying Club Miles and the current 40% bonus that Virgin Atlantic is currently offering when you buy miles makes some of these awards look very attractive indeed.