Reader UAPhil asks,
is it worth considering Virgin Group miles instead of Delta miles? if so, what is the best approach?
Meanwhile just hours earlier, reader Ghina asked,
I am new to the frequent flyer game, and I have one item of confusion that I can’t get past for some reason, some sort of block. It has to do with all the Virgin Airlines. Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Virgin America…
Do they each share one frequent flyer program? Do they each have their own? Are they comparable? Do they all have credit cards that help bolster your account?
Each Virgin airline has their own program (although they cooperate, you can use miles from one to travel on the others). Really, they just share (license) the Virgin name. They aren’t owned by the same company — as you’d expect because nations usually have limits on foreign ownership.
Air New Zealand and Emirates have ownership in Virgin Australia. Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic. And Virgin America just went public.
As for which program to focus on, I’d say that none are among the best frequent flyer programs. However,
- You aren’t supposed to be able to join Virgin Australia‘s program unless you live in the Asia Pacific region. It’s good for short haul redemptions especially. They do add fuel surcharges onto awards where those are a part of paid tickets. You can transfer Starwood points to Virgin Australia.
- Virgin America has miles that are ‘deflated’ in that the number of miles for a trip is about half what other progams require, but they’re twice as hard to earn. They have a credit card and you can transfer in American Express points. Their program is ‘revenue-based’ (earn based on the cost of your ticket, redeem for Virgin America travel based on the price of the travel you want) but they have a traditional award chart for travel on their partners.
- Virgin Atlantic has the least good program of the 3. They have a credit card with big bonuses. And you can transfer points in from Chase and American Express. I have tons of these points and almost never have an opportunity to use them. They require roundtrip travel when redeeming on their partners, and their agents always seem to have challenges making partner bookings (you cannot do it online). Fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic’s flights are high, and you can book itineraries originating in the US on Virgin Atlantic without fuel surcharges, but for more miles, when spending Delta SkyMiles.
I wouldn’t choose Virgin Atlantic miles over Delta miles, unless you want to fly predominantly to London and are willing to pay more cash to redeem fewer miles. The other case I’d want Virgin Atlantic miles over Delta miles is if you are based in London and you fly predominantly to the US. You can then take advantage of Virgin Atlantic’s cheaper award chart, and Delta adds fuel surcharges to awards on Europe-originating itineraries anyway.