By Julian, author of Devil’s Advocate…
It’s fascinating to me that so many airlines have decided it’s fair to promote a “free” ticket loyalty program and then turn around and charge several hundred dollars in fuel surcharges for one of those “free” tickets. It almost seems like… well, lying. Is that too harsh? How about we’ll call it an “inadvertently fortuitous untruth?”
Here’s a case in point: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are practically worthless thanks to Virgin’s incredibly high fuel surcharges. (Is “worthless” too harsh too? OK, let’s say they’re “tremendously value challenged.”)
But fortunately there are a few lesser-known uses for Flying Club miles, one of which is redeeming them for Delta tickets without the fuel surcharges.
Virgin Atlantic has a specific chart for using their miles on Delta:
There are definitely some advantages to be had in this chart, such as domestic business class at 45,000 miles roundtrip (versus 50,000 on Delta’s chart), or 100,000 miles for business class from the U.S. to Europe (and only 90,000 from major East Coast cities to London). Also, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to Virgin Atlantic, so this opens up a way to book Delta flights with UR points.
Now, it’s important to note a few major downsides. First, there must be Saver availability on Delta for Virgin Atlantic to be able to book the seat. Standard award space won’t cut it. As we all know, searching for Saver space on Delta can be loads o’ fun, but sometimes you get lucky.
Virgin also doesn’t allow one-way redemptions and you can’t book partner awards online — you have to call them. This is annoying, but the agents are pleasant and the hold times are nowhere near as awful as their brethren at British Airways who believe they are guarding the gold of Gringotts whenever they answer the phone.
So that’s the bad news. But let’s say you’ve found Delta Saver availability for an upcoming trip. Here’s a little tip to booking the award via Virgin…
In my experience, Virgin agents only report nonstop availability, so if you’ve found a flight from Los Angeles to LaGuardia with a change in Minneapolis, you can’t simply ask the agent to book you from LAX to NYC. You have to tell the Virgin agent that you want to stop in that specific city for any itineraries with connections. Otherwise, they won’t find the flights you want. Better yet, give them exact flight numbers if the agent is willing to look up your flights that way.
This method of booking Delta awards is not for everyone, but for those folks with a pile of Flying Club miles or Ultimate Rewards points, it could be an easy way to get a great redemption.
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