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American Express Membership Rewards is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic through May 22, 2017.
Virgin Atlantic’s miles were among the least valuable currencies. That was true before Even Virgin Atlantic Flying Club raised redemption prices for Virgin Atlantic travel and before their partnership with Virgin America terminated.
But there are some incredible sweet spots that most people don’t consider.
- Partner award redemptions are roundtrip
- These must be booked by phone, not online, and it usually seems like call center agents have never booked a partner award before
- They add fuel surcharges to awards where they are part of a paid ticket’s price
Virgin Atlantic occasionally runs discounts on transatlantic economy awards, and even sometimes premium economy awards. Discounts combined with transfer bonuses wind up being super cheap.
My favorite award is Virgin Atlantic redemptions for travel on Japanese Star Alliance airline ANA:
- In general they seem to have access to the same space that Star Alliance partners have, so search for space on the Aeroplan or United websites then call.
- The prices are super cheap.
- Although Virgin Atlantic does pass on fuel surcharges that would be included in a paid fare, ANA awards to Japan (and North Asia generally) are super cheap.
Here’s the award most recent award chart I’ve seen published:
For the awards I’ve booked it still seems to be intact although they could change at any time and it’s always a good idea to check that Virgin Atlantic sees availability of the flights you want and what they want to price it at before transferring points.
You will fly only ANA, you cannot combine travel with other airlines, so you need to start and end in a city that ANA serves like New York JFK, Washington Dulles, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, or Seattle. 120,000 miles will buy you Chicago – Tokyo roundtrip in first class.
And those fuel surcharges — between New York and Tokyo? Roundtrip just $4:
ANA first class used to be tough to find, but especially during the fall and winter months and out of Chicago and Houston I find it reasonably easy to get.
United charges 220,000 miles roundtrip between the US and Japan. Virgin Atlantic charges half that from the West Coast, just over half from the East Coast and middle of the country.