Years after diving into the points and miles world, you may not realize that a loyalty program you had overlooked could have been one of your most powerful tools.
I didn’t take a close look at Virgin Atlantic’s loyalty program for a long time because I didn’t immediately see it playing into my rewards travel strategy. But Virgin Atlantic offers something enticing — something becoming rarer with other airline programs nowadays: attractive partner award charts.
Despite recent changes to Virgin Atlantic’s partner award charts, Virgin points currently stand out for offering incredible value with many uses.
Let’s go over the basics of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and show you the sweet spots that make Virgin points so valuable.
How to earn Virgin points
There are four primary ways of earning Virgin points directly. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
You can certainly still earn points the old-fashioned way by flying.
If you’re flying on Virgin Atlantic, you can use the airline’s earning calculator to determine how many points you’ll earn for your flight. If you’re flying one of its partners, such as Delta, Air France or Hawaiian Airlines, you can opt to earn Virgin points by adding your Flying Club membership number to your reservation.
You can check your operating carrier and fare class on WhereToCredit for the best option for your flight.
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Credit card rewards
The only direct way to earn Virgin Points through credit cards is with the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®. Currently, you can earn up to 50,000 bonus points within the first year:
- 30,000 bonus points for spending at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
- 2,500 bonus points for adding an authorized user (5,000 bonus points max).
- 7,500 bonus points each anniversary after you spend at least $15,000 during your anniversary year.
- 7,500 additional bonus points after you spend at least $25,000 during your anniversary year.
The information for the Virgin Atlantic card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
50,000 Virgin points isn’t a pittance by any means. But there are many other indirect ways to earn this valuable currency from credit cards that are much more effective than the Virgin Atlantic credit card. For example, you can transfer rewards from American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
If you’re looking for a new card, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which currently offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Virgin Atlantic at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points equal 25,000 Virgin points.
Between these six programs, it’s not difficult to compile a large balance of Virgin points that will enable you to book amazing sweet spots (which we’ll cover in a bit). However, if you’re still shy of a great award, you could consider topping off your account with transfers from World of Hyatt (5:3 transfer ratio) or IHG Rewards (5:1 transfer ratio).
Related: The best airline credit cards
If you’ve flown a Virgin Atlantic-operated flight — whether you paid cash or points for it — you can use Flying Club’s Points Booster to score extra points for cheap. You usually have the option of paying 0.010 British pounds (or $0.013) per point, but the program periodically runs bonus promotions. For example, in late April 2022, we saw an offer for up to 40% bonus points.
You can even use the Points Booster for flights you have already taken, up to six months back.
Other earning partners
There are several partners through which you can earn Virgin points by shopping or traveling:
- Car rental partners: Virgin Atlantic partners with Avis, Alamo, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Sixt to let members earn Virgin points.
- Heathrow Rewards: You can earn points for shopping or parking at Heathrow airport and then transfer them to Flying Club.
- Rocketmiles: You can earn between 500 and 10,000 Virgin Points per night for booking hotels through Rocketmiles.
- Shops Away: Earn Virgin points by making purchases at over 1,000 retailers through Virgin Atlantic’s shopping portal.
- Virgin Group: From Virgin Hotels to luxury Virgin properties, you can earn Virgin points through several Virgin Group partners.
Virgin Atlantic award chart
Many newbies to award travel may assume that the best use of an airline’s miles is for award flights on that airline’s own flights. That’s rarely the case — and Virgin Atlantic isn’t an exception.
The award prices Virgin Atlantic charges are reasonable. Here are the round-trip prices you can expect during the standard season.
If you want to stretch your points further between 2023 to 2024, consider booking travel during the following standard season dates:
|Standard season dates
|Caribbean standard season dates
|Jan. 5-March 23, 2023.
|March 6-29, 2023.
|April 18-June 17, 2023.
|April 19-May 28, 2023.
|Sept. 5-Oct. 19, 2023.
|Sept. 5-Oct. 19, 2023.
|Nov. 1-Dec. 8, 2023.
|Nov. 1-Dec. 8, 2023.
|Jan. 4-March 21, 2024.
|March 4-21, 2024.
|April 16-June 15, 2024.
|April 16-June 15, 2024.
Round-trip prices escalate a bit during the peak season.
Here’s the complete list of peak travel dates to be aware of:
|Peak season dates
|Caribbean Peak season dates
|March 24-April 17, 2023.
|March 30-April 18, 2023.
|June 18-Sep.4, 2023.
|May 29-June 4, 2023.
|Oct. 20-31, 2023.
|July 15-Sept. 4, 2023.
|Dec. 9-31, 2023.
|Oct. 20-31, 2023.
|Jan. 1-3, 2024.
|Dec. 9-31, 2023.
|March 22-April 15, 2023.
|Jan. 1, 2024-March 3, 2024.
|June 16-Sept. 2, 2024.
|March 22, 2024-April 15, 2024.
|May 27, 2024-June 2, 2024.
|July 20, 2024-Sept. 2, 2024
The value you may save by spending relatively few points (i.e., 20,000 round-trip between the East Coast and the U.K.) you will lose on the outrageous fuel surcharges Virgin Atlantic tacks onto award flights. Round-trip flights between the U.S. and the U.K. usually incur at least $450 for economy flights. Meanwhile, Upper Class seats (Virgin Atlantic’s business class) could have well over $2,000 in fees round-trip.
There are plenty of occasions where you may find paid tickets for less than these fuel surcharges, especially if you aren’t fussy about the operating carrier. Your points won’t save you money in these scenarios. Even nonstop cash fares in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class are readily available for under $3,000 round trip, so always check tickets before committing to those eye-watering surcharges.
Booking one-way award flights instead of round trips will often reduce the taxes and fees on award flights, potentially by hundreds of dollars. You may also benefit from booking Virgin Atlantic flights to London but not from London. Fees tend to be higher for flights departing London thanks to government-imposed surcharges, so if you’ve got another award currency you can use for your return flight, go with that.
Flying Club airline partners
The real magic of Virgin points lies in partner award charts thanks to nearly two dozen additional airlines to book with your rewards.
Virgin Atlantic joined the SkyTeam alliance earlier this year. With the current exceptions of China Eastern and ITA Airways (coming later in 2023, according to Virgin Atlantic), you can now redeem Virgin points on all SkyTeam airlines.
Redemptions on SkyTeam airlines are distance-based and you will need the following Virgin points, each way, per person on all dates (no peak/off-peak pricing):
|Flight distance (miles)
You can only redeem Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines, China Airlines, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines and Xiamen Air online.
Partner redemption charts do not include first class. This means you can’t redeem your Virgin points for SkyTeam airlines who offer first class — which includes Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Saudia and Xiamen.
Air France also offers first class but restricts redemptions to elite members of its own Flying Blue program.
In addition to the 16 SkyTeam airlines you can redeem your Virgin points with, you can also book award flights with the following airlines using Virgin points:
You can also earn Virgin points — but not redeem them — with partners SAS, IndiGo and LATAM.
Each non-SkyTeam partner has a different award chart. Some are distance-based and others are zone-based, so each airline can have different terms and conditions. You must call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to book award tickets for carriers that do not appear online.
You can still search for availability on other websites, however. For example, the United Airlines website is excellent for finding available seats on Star Alliance carriers. Once you find what you want, note the travel dates and flight numbers. Then call Virgin Atlantic and feed that information to the customer service representative.
Best uses of Virgin points
With 23 different airline partners, these are the best ways to use your Virgin points:
If you want to fly from North America to Europe, try finding availability on Air France or KLM. This is because you will need fewer Virgin Points than other SkyTeam airlines require.
SkyTeam is strong in Asia with members like Korean Air, China Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Air flying nonstop between the United States and Asia. You can fly from the West Coast of the United States to Korea with Korean Air in business class for 85,000 Virgin Points each way, plus fees, taxes and surcharges. This is a decent redemption, though see below for the fantastic ANA sweet spot to Japan.
Remember, Virgin charges per segment, not per journey, so if you are connecting on, say China Airlines from New York (JFK) through to Bangkok (BKK) via Taipei (TPE), you would be charged a whopping 160,000 points each way in business class, which is not a great redemption.
So, when redeeming on SkyTeam airlines, aim for direct flights and minimize connections to save points.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Virgin Atlantic’s incredible redemption rates for ANA-operated flights should always be considered if you want to get between the U.S. and Japan. This route is one of the best award travel sweet spots and likely the single best use of Virgin points — even with this year’s devaluation of first-class pricing.
Take a look at Virgin Atlantic’s award chart for ANA flights. These prices are for round-trip travel. Open-jaw bookings are allowed, so you can check award availability on other routes if your preferred route isn’t available. It’s also worth noting that you can book one-way awards for half the round-trip ticket cost.
If you were to book a round-trip, first-class seat to Japan in one of ANA’s fancy suite seats, you’d spend just 170,000 points for a seat costing $20,000 or more. Business class is also an excellent deal at just 95,000 points.
It’s also worth noting that round-trip award flights are incredibly cheap for infants under two years old who don’t need a seat of their own:
- Economy seats cost 2,000 points.
- Business-class seats cost 10,000 points.
- First-class seats cost 14,000 points.
Virgin Atlantic has pages and pages of award charts for both KLM and Air France. You can visit this page to see them all. It divides the world into ten zones and calculates your award price based on your origin and destination zones. Here are some highlights from the U.S.:
- One-way economy flight to Europe from the West Coast for 15,000 points.
- One-way economy flight to the Middle East from the East Coast for 25,000 points.
- One-way business class flight to Europe from the East Coast for 48,500 points.
- One-way business class flights from the East Coast to Northern Africa for 66,500 points.
You’ll often incur fuel surcharges for your flights, but they’re not nearly as high as for Virgin Atlantic awards. In my experience, surcharges are just under $300 for a one-way business-class ticket from the U.S. to Europe, making Air France-KLM a cheaper option for business-class redemptions to Europe.
These prices are all for standard season travel — not peak dates. Standard dates are as follows (Virgin has not yet published dates beyond June 2023):
- Jan.5-March 23, 2023.
- April 18-June 17, 2023.
If you’re flying within Europe, you won’t be subject to this zone pricing. Virgin Atlantic has an easy chart to follow.
The Virgin Atlantic award chart for Virgin Australia flights is mostly distance-based, meaning it could be a good value for short and expensive intra-Australia flights. Virgin Australia has discontinued long-haul service, including flights to and from the U.S.
This current award chart indicates that you can now only book economy seats. However, it does price infant rewards at 2,000 points in economy and 10,000 points in business class. You may have to reach out to Virgin Atlantic when booking your flight to learn the business-class price of your route.
Less valuable Flying Club partners
While having a long list of earning and redemption partners is great, some key partners don’t provide much redemption value for Flying Club members.
- Air New Zealand: Releases virtually no award space to partners like Virgin Atlantic.
- Delta Air Lines: Typically only releases economy class space to Virgin Atlantic, and this redemption lost much of its value in early 2021.
- Singapore Airlines: Only allows a limited number of routes to redeem Virgin points on and you can only redeem in economy.
- Hawaiian Airlines: Requires rates similar to Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue — so there’s little reason to book it with Virgin points. Business-class awards cost 40,000 points each way between Hawaii and the West Coast or 65,000 points each way between Hawaii and the East Coast.
Unique Virgin Points redemptions
If you find yourself with hundreds of thousands (or millions) of Virgin Points, you can trade them in for an extraordinary level of luxury — or altitude:
- Virgin Voyages: Watch for occasional discounted cruises where you can sail up to 12 nights for as little as 80,000 Virgin points.
- Necker Island: Stay at Richard Branson’s private island home for four nights for 540,000 Virgin points, plus $5,400.
- Mont Rochelle: Stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Cape Town winery for three nights for between 120,000 and 200,000 points.
- Kasbah Tamadot: Spend three nights in Branson’s Atlas Mountain retreat in Morocco for between 240,000 and 280,000 points.
- The Lodge: Stay three nights in one bedroom of Branson’s nine-bedroom Swiss Alpine resort for 380,000 points.
- Mahali Mzuri: Spend three nights in a “luxury tent” at a Kenyan safari camp for 600,000 points or five nights for 950,000 points.
- Ulusaba Private Game Reserve: Use 600,000 points for a three-night stay for two people in a Safari Lodge room or 950,000 points for a five-night stay for two people in a Safari Lodge room.
Or, you can enter a raffle for a chance to fly in space on Virgin Galactic for a cool 2,000,000 points — but all of those points must have been earned from Virgin Atlantic flights.
How to redeem Virgin Points
Now that you know why you should care about Virgin points, let’s show you how to redeem them for award flights. You can easily search for seats and on Virgin Atlantic’s homepage. Just click “Advanced Search” and then select the “Points” option.
You’ll then be shown availability on the date you selected, as well as three days on either side.
Where there is more than one flight available on your selected day, you can choose the schedule and carrier that suits your needs and then proceed to book online, paying fees, taxes and surcharges at the same time.
This process may seem incredibly easy, but that’s not always true. Regarding partner award searches, the Virgin Atlantic website can fall short. Virgin Atlantic only allows you to search award flights to/from airports loaded into its system — and many of its partners aren’t bookable online. Remember, you’ll have to call to book flights such as ANA, Singapore Airlines and several SkyTeam airlines.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, head to another website that does show availability for that airline. For example, the United Airlines site shows Singapore Airlines and ANA flights. Once you find what you’re after, copy the flight information and travel date and call Virgin Atlantic to book.
The small print
There are a few general terms and conditions for award flights booked with Virgin points — including partner-operated flights — to keep in mind:
Award flight changes
Travelers can change their travel date, routing and/or class of service before travel for a service fee of just $50 (plus mileage difference, if applicable) for flights originating in the U.S.
Award ticket cancellation policy
You can cancel your ticket and receive all your points back for a cancellation fee of $50 for flights originating in the U.S. as long as you cancel at least 24 hours before departure. Once you’re within 24 hours, points become non-refundable.
Open-jaw and stopovers
Flying Club prices one-way awards at half of the award chart price for most partners. This includes ANA flights, which used to require round-trip bookings.
If you can’t find award availability both ways on the route you want, you can book an open-jaw award — which means you’re flying into or out of a different airport on your return leg. There’s no penalty for doing this and the mileage prices out as half of the round-trip cost for each of the two legs booked.
As Flying Club charges for each flight segment separately, you can build in a stopover in a connecting city. However, booking an award with a connection or stopover may not be worth the extra mileage cost.
Virgin Atlantic is intricate — and some of its luster has disappeared after devaluations and diminishing availability from its partners. But the program is still highly valuable for international travel, particularly for flying ANA, Air France or KLM in premium cabins when you can find availability. The recent addition of SkyTeam partners also gives attractive new redemption opportunities.
And because the program has so many transfer partners, its points are easy to earn.
Additional reporting by Ben Smithson.