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Virgin Atlantic may not be an airline which automatically springs to mind when you’re considering air travel but its Flying Club loyalty program can be very useful if you know what to look for – that’s why transfer bonuses between Amex Membership Rewards and Virgin Flying Club are always worth a closer look.
Right now American Express (US) is offering a 30% bonus when you transfer Membership Rewards points to Virgin Flying Club so for every 1,000 MRPs transferred you’ll net 1,300 Virgin Flying Club miles.
Best Use Of Virgin Flying Club Miles
Virgin Atlantic announced changes to loyalty program back in November 2016 and enacted those changes from 1 September 2017 but, sadly for flyers, the airline didn’t do much to lower the often heinous surcharges it adds to its award bookings.
It’s these surcharges that make redemptions on Virgin Atlantic mostly unappealing…..but there’s another option that’s actually very good indeed.
Use Virgin Flying Club Miles For ANA Premium Cabin Bookings
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.
The highlights in this award chart here are as follows:
- 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
Roundtrip First Class travel from New York to Tokyo (a 14 hour flight in either direction) for 120,000 Flying Club Miles is a great deal…but the good news doesn’t end there.
Take a look at what the costs for these redemptions are in terms of Membership Rewards Points (MRP) when you factor in the 30% bonus on offer:
- New York to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP/93,000 MRP (Business Class/First Class)
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 70,000 MRP/85,000 MRP
- Europe to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP/93,000 MRP
That’s phenomenal value!
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 Deltasome of these ANA awards look amazing…..even if you do have to pay surcharges on top.
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 any more.
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.
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 $345 (at current exchange rates).
Having said that, even if you have to pay the surcharges out of London the awards are still very good value – ANA’s premium cabins are very good indeed.
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.
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 is can be a fantastic use of Flying Club Miles (and therefore Membership Rewards points) and the current 30% bonus from Amex just made this option even better.