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Recently Virgin Atlantic announced quite a big shake up in how it calculates the miles and tier points flyers will earn when flying on Delta and crediting their trips to the airline’s Flying Club program. On top of that Virgin also changed the number of miles needed to book awards on Delta with Economy Class awards generally decreasing in cost but some Business Class award increasing in cost by over 70%.
Award costs and earnings on Delta had long been out of step with earnings and award costs for flights taken on Virgin Atlantic so it was only a matter of time before Virgin put through the changes needed to align the two – that’s what last week’s announcement was all about.
I did a pretty full analysis of the changes Virgin Atlantic announced when I wrote about this last week (this link will take you to that analysis) but, as far as earning and burning miles goes, in a nutshell this is what the effect will be, from 1 September 2017:
- Travelers booking Business & First Class fares will earn considerably more miles
- Flexible economy fares will earn more miles
- Other economy fares will either earn the same as always or earn slightly fewer miles
- Economy Class awards are mostly coming down in price quite significantly
- Most Business Class (Delta One) awards are increasing with awards to/from the West Coast skyrocketing by up to 72%
Delta One just got a whole lot more expensive with Virgin Flying Club miles
The loophole that allowed Flying Club members to pay fewer miles for Delta One flights (on certain routes) than were required for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class has been closed.
Book Awards With ANA To Make The Most Of Flying Club Miles
The rules of the miles & points game is simple – when a loyalty program shuts down one sweet spot or loophole you look for the next….and that’s exactly what you should do here.
If you’re a flyer who books a lot of travel in Delta First Class (US domestic flights) or Delta One (international flights) then, for flights booked from 1 September, you will earn considerably more miles than you did before (when crediting to Virgin Flying Club)…and that’s great.
The question is where should you spend this new bounty?
Well, Virgin Atlantic awards are as expensive as ever, Delta awards on Virgin have now become as expensive….so it’s time to look elsewhere and elsewhere means ANA.
The Virgin Atlantic ANA award chart used to be distance-based but, not too long ago, this was changed to a region-based chart which looks like this:
The mileage costs shown are for roundtrip travel as ANA one-way awards are not bookable with Virgin Flying Club miles.
ANA Business Class Seat
The highlights here are:
- New York to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles (Business Class/First Class)
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 90,000 miles/110,000 miles
- Europe to Tokyo: 95,000 miles/120,000 miles
First Class from New York to Tokyo (a 14 hour flight) for 120,000 Flying Club Miles? That’s fantastic!
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 some of these ANA awards look amazing…..even if you do have to pay surcharges on top (I’ll come on to those later).
There is, however, a downside to Virgin now using a region based award chart. Per Virgin Atlantic:
What this means is that, for example, New York – Japan – South Korea in Business Class will cost two awards:
- New York – Japan: 95,000
- Japan – South Korea: 35,000
Total roundtrip cost is 130,000 miles and that’s not such a great deal any more.
ANA First Class Suite
The bad news is that Virgin Atlantic is one of the many annoying airlines that adds surcharges to its awards…and that extends to ANA awards too.
The good news is that the surcharges aren’t heinous.
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:
This is an actual cash fare that I 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.
In this case the taxes and fees make up a total surcharge of $173.66.
That’s really not too bad at all….especially when you see how much these surcharges jump if you choose to fly from London:
That’s a total of £265.37 or approximately $330 (at current exchange rates).
But even if you have to pay the ex-London surcharges the award proposition is still a very good one….and the ANA product is light years ahead of anything you’ll get from British Airways.
Searching For & Booking ANA Awards
You can’t book ANA awards via Virgin Atlantic’s website and you can’t even search for them so you have to look to other Star Alliance sites for help.
I find ANA’s website a bit clunky so my go-to sites are Aeroplan or United 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 more than happy to help you.
If you’re in the fortunate position of being the type of flyer who will be earning more Flying Miles than ever after 1 September then these awards just got even better for you – less flying to reach the award you want.
Virgin Flying Club is a transfer partner of American Express, Chase and Citi so, even if you don’t fly with Virgin/Delta all that much (or at all), you can still earn enough points to make use of this pretty fantastic deal.
Let’s hope this isn’t next on Virgin’s list of things to “bring into line”!