How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles (2020 Edition)

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This post has been updated to remain current for 2020. One significant new addition is the fact that you can text Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to look for partner awards that are not bookable online.  Details about searching for awards via text can be found in the section titled “8 things you need to know.

Delta One Suite A350 seats

One of the best ways to book Delta flights is with Virgin Atlantic miles. Via Virgin Atlantic, you can often book the same exact flights for fewer miles and far lower change fees than Delta would charge.  Plus, Virgin Atlantic miles are much easier to earn!

On non-stop flights, Virgin Atlantic usually charges fewer miles than Delta for the same Delta flights.  Sometimes the difference can be extreme.  For example, Delta might require over 300,000 miles for the same flight that Virgin Atlantic would charge 50,000 miles.

Virgin Atlantic also has low award change and cancellation fees. Virgin Atlantic charges only $50 per passenger.  Even better, on awards that incur less than $50 in taxes and fees to book, you’ll lose those fees, but you won’t have to pay $50 to cancel and get your miles back.  Delta, meanwhile, charges $150 per passenger for award changes or cancellations (this fee is waived for Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members).

Virgin Atlantic miles can be earned in many ways.  In fact, you might already have access to Virgin Atlantic miles indirectly: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards all transfer 1 to 1 to Virgin Atlantic.  And both Amex and Citi are known to occasionally offer transfer bonuses so that you’ll get more than 1 Virgin Atlantic mile for each point transferred.  See our Current Transfer Bonuses page for up-to-date information about which transfer bonuses are currently available and which ones have been available in the past.

Another great way to earn miles is with the Virgin Atlantic credit card which earns 1.5 miles per dollar for all spend in addition to incentives for high spend.  For an in-depth analysis of this card, see: Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard Deep Dive: Maximize Earnings and Status.

8 things you need to know

  • Search and book online: Most itineraries can be booked online at virginatlantic.com.
  • Book nonstop flights: Virgin Atlantic charges separately for every leg of the trip. When multiple legs are required, it is often cheaper to book the same flights with Delta miles.
  • Watch out for the 21 day blockade.  For domestic flights within 21 days of departure, Delta often blocks awards from partners such as Virgin Atlantic.  This means that it may not be possible to book the flight you want if the departure date is within 21 days.
  • Mind the bugs: The Virgin Atlantic website is buggy, but there are easy workarounds detailed later in this post.
  • You may have to contact Virgin Atlantic: Some international destinations served by Delta are not available to book through the Virgin Atlantic website. For example, Delta flies to the Seoul Incheon airport in South Korea but the Virgin Atlantic website isn’t aware of that airport.  In order to book awards to those cities, it’s is necessary to contact Virgin Atlantic by phone or by text.
  • Search and book via text: If you want to find award availability and/or book awards for Virgin Atlantic partners like Delta (or ANA, or Virgin Australia, or Singapore Airlines, etc.), you can text them from the US at 97634 (or text internationally: 07481 339184).  I’ve done this a few times when I didn’t want to be stuck on the phone.  My experience was that it can sometimes take quite a while to get a response, but it’s useful since you can set the request in motion and then do other things until you get a response.  An example text I sent was “Hi, can you check a partner award for me? One person ATL-BOG Jan 21 flying Delta economy or business class.”  In that particular case, I got an answer back within 2 minutes.  Other requests have taken much longer.
  • Instant point transfers: Point transfers from Amex, Chase, or Citi to Virgin Atlantic are usually instantaneous.  This is great because you can find available award space before transferring points and then transfer and book the award with little risk of someone else swooping in to book the same flights.
  • Book Virgin Atlantic flights with Delta miles: Just as it is often much cheaper to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles, it is often cheaper to book Virgin Atlantic flights with Delta miles.  Weird huh?

Award prices

Virgin Atlantic has published a fairly comprehensive award chart for Delta flights (found here).  The following are round-trip prices.  One-way prices are half the shown price.  It’s worth noting that some of the prices are significantly less than Delta would charge for the same flights.

Virgin Atlantic has special pricing just for flights to and from the UK:

And here are the lap child prices:

Step by Step Guide

Here’s how to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles:

Enter your search criteria

Browse to virginatlantic.com and enter your origin and destination airports; select “round trip” or “one way” (I recommend booking one-way awards); select your travel dates, and the number of passengers.

Set advanced search criteria

Click the “Advanced search” link, then select “Miles” under “How Are You Looking To Pay?”  Then choose whether to search for Economy or Upper Class seats.  If you want to fly Delta first class or Delta One, select “Upper Class.”  When ready, press the red circle with arrow to start the search.

Find available award days

Delta does not make all award seats available to partners, so there may be days with no seats available at all.  Or, if you’re lucky, you may find the exact flights you need.

Important: Delta appears to block partner award space within 21 days of departure on domestic flights.  If you want to fly within the US and you have 21 days or less before departure, then you are unlikely to find flights bookable with Virgin Atlantic.  Here’s an example of what close-in calendar view often looks like for domestic flights.  May 30th is 21 days from the date that I ran this search and is therefore the first day that shows award availability:

Switch to 5-week view

If your initial search doesn’t reveal useful results, switch to the full 5 week calendar view.  At the top-right of your browser window, you should see the option to “Refine search”.  Click there for options to change your search criteria.  Make sure to click “show advanced options” if you want to change your cabin preference from/to economy or upper class.

On the refine search screen, I recommend selecting “Within 5 weeks” to get the full calendar view.  Also, make sure that Payment is still set to “Pay with miles.”

What if the “Pay with miles” selector is greyed out? In that case, you can force it back to existence by temporarily changing the flight destination to London (LHR).  Then select “Pay with miles”.  Then change the destination back to the one you want.  Note that you’ll probably have to select “Within 5 weeks” again since the site will have forgotten that you chose it earlier.

Select and book your flight

Once you find a date that has award availability, click the link within that date to see available flights.  Here’s an example showing both a nonstop upper class flight for 50,000 miles and a one-stop flight for 72,500 miles:

To book the flight, simply click on the award price next to the flight you want.  For example, if you want the nonstop flight above, click “50,000 miles”. This will then lead you through a straightforward checkout process.

To learn more about the flight (or flights) before booking, click “Flight and cabin information“.  This shows you the specific flight number, aircraft, and more.

Optionally add your Delta number

If you have elite status with Delta, you may want to add your Delta account number to the reservation:

After you receive an email confirmation of your booking:

  1. Log into your Delta account on Delta.com
  2. Go to: My Trips… Find My Trips
  3. Use the Virgin Atlantic confirmation number to find the flight
  4. Next, you can modify the flight details, remove the Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer number, and then add your Delta account number
  5. Now the flight will appear under “My Trips” on Delta.com

Dealing with bugs and limitations

Pay with Miles is grayed out

If the website only lets you choose “Pay with card” and not “Pay with miles,” the workaround is to temporarily changing the flight destination to London (LHR).  It will then be possible to select “Pay with miles”.  Then change the destination back to the one you want.  Note that other settings may have to be re-established as well (such as the number of weeks to search).

Destination doesn’t auto-complete

This problem used to happen regularly, but it seems to be mostly fixed.  Still, if you type in your destination city and the text box doesn’t auto-complete, you have two options:

  1. Type the destination into the departure airport text box and then copy and paste it into the destination box.
  2. Use the map icon to find your destination from a drop-down list.

Airport not found

Many foreign airports aren’t loaded into the Virgin Atlantic system. If you want to book flights to one of these airports, it can’t be done online.  I recommend first finding award space and then contacting Virgin Atlantic to book it:

Find Award Space

Air France’s website can be used to search for Delta award space.  You need an Air France Flying Blue account to search for awards.  And note that the Air France award availability calendar does not work for Delta flights.  You need instead to search for Delta awards on specific dates.  If you find award availability through Air France on Delta flights, ignore the award price that Air France wants to charge.  Virgin Atlantic has different award pricing for the same flights.  The key is that if Air France can see the award space on Delta flights, then Virgin Atlantic should be able to also.

Another option is to use a tool like Juicy Miles to search for award space.  One advantage of Juicy Miles is that it can not only find award space, but it will also estimate the number of miles required for the flight.  This is the only way I know of to find the Virgin Atlantic award price online for flights that are not bookable online.  One downside of Juicy Miles is that there’s a fee to use it.  For details, see: Juicy Miles: Finally, a Kayak-like tool for flight awards!

I believe that it’s also possible to find award space with the paid tool Expert Flyer.  Like Air France’s website, Expert Flyer can’t show you how much the award will cost, but it can search a week at a time.

Contact Virgin Atlantic to confirm and book

Before moving points from a transferable points program to Virgin Atlantic, I recommend contacting Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to confirm that the award you want is really available and to confirm what they’ll charge.

Below you’ll find Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s contact information.  Please note that you can text them if you prefer not to call:

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