I consider using Delta miles for travel on Virgin Australia to be the absolute best use of Skypesos. Delta even allows online booking for Virgin Australia awards and has stopped collecting fuel surcharges when redeeming for that carrier.
While Delta miles tend to be the toughest to use of any major carrier, award availability tends to be quite bad. They don’t permit one-way awards for half the cost of roundtrip (neither does US Airways). Their agents are clueless, their award booking website offers limited partners and is generally quite broken. International first class awards aren’t allowed.
And yet ironically the miles are better for travel between the U.S. and Australia — one of the toughest frequent flyer awards there is — than anyone else’s. And that’s not just because they will let you go the long way via Asia (such as on Korean and China Southern) and certainly not because it’s easy to score premium cabin seats on their own Los Angeles to Sydney flights. Instead, it’s because they partner with Virgin Australia. And Virgin Australia has by far the best availability between North America and Australia of any airline. This is especially true on Virgin Australia’s Los Angeles – Brisbane flight, where I have even seen four business class award seats on the same flight during the absolute ‘peak of peak’ Christmas and New Years period.
Milepoint member JWHPN messages me to share his recent experiences booking Virgin Australia awards with Delta miles. And the lessons seem worth passing along, since they reinforce things I’ve written in the past about making the absolute best use of Delta miles.
Their comments below, followed by my additional commentary and explanation.
Delta’s award calendar might be even more broken/misleading than before they “enhanced it”. Delta’s calendar doesn’t show low award space internationally to AUS/NZ until you clicked through on the day you wanted and sorted by miles per passenger, even on some days that the calendar showed no availability. The VA website is still your best friend trying to use Delta miles.
The Delta website will show you a calendar of what dates various awards are available. Do not trust it.
You need to find flights day by day. Search one day at a time. And you will come up with awards that are available even though the calendar says that they aren’t.
If you want Virgin Australia business class award seats the best way to find them is to sign up for a Virgin Australia frequent flyer account. Yes, there are restrictions on what countries’ residents are supposed to join although of course you don’t need them to mail you a membership card — just to instantly set up your online access to their website so that you can search for award space.
Awards that are available at the lowest mileage cost are also going to be available for use with Delta miles. Find those flights on Virgin Australia’s website, then try to book at Delta.com. And if you can’t get the Delta website to display the flights, call Delta. Just recognize that Delta agents don’t always even know who their partners are, let alone how to find award seats on those partners, so you may have to call more than once.
When Virgin Australia updated their booking systems a week ago, they dumped a ton of award space out there. I was seeing 5/6 out of 7 days a week worth of award space available thru February and March, which is supposedly high season down there. I’m still seeing space 2-4 days a week into march from LAX-SYD/BNE/MEL
Virgin Australia award space seems to go in spurts, sometimes there is an absolute ton, sometimes it dries up, then it’s available again. The amazing thing is how many award seats are available during peak season, on all of their flights but in my experience especially the Brisbane flight (which not coincidentally is also the flight that’s easiest to redeem for on Qantas as well.)
With the system changeover, all the Virgin Australia flights that used to be coded DJ are now VA coded. Meaning you can book way more connecting options now. I was able to add on SYD-ZQN to my award itinerary, saving me another 1200 dollars. To me, this a huge development, because with Skymiles you can do open jaw AND a stopover, and now you don’t have to use extra miles to build out the rest of your trip.
Virgin Australia has consolidated flights former Virgin Blue flights, and now that those flights area operated as Virgin Australia (“Virgin Blue” wasn’t a Delta partner) you can include those flights as part of your award ticket.
American miles can be used don Qantas and that’s great for intra-Australia travel. Now Delta miles are good for such travel as well. Star Alliance, which partners with Air New Zealand, has a hole in their redemption map for those intra-Australia flights.
Thanks for the reminders, JWHPN!