If you’ve used SkyMiles to book a Delta flight, you’ve no doubt balked at the number of miles the airline wants. With prices that soar seemingly at random, it can feel like a ripoff. Without an award chart, Delta can charge whatever it wants for a given flight. And when Delta decides it wants a lot, you’re out of luck. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s your new mantra: Anytime Delta wants a boatload of SkyMiles, see if you can snag the flight for cheaper through Virgin Atlantic. And even when Delta’s prices seem reasonable, check Virgin Atlantic anyways.
Delta and Virgin: A Perfect Partnership
Virgin Atlantic is the chic airline that flies across the Atlantic Ocean and the brainchild of Richard Branson. Strangely, its frequent flyer program, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, isn’t great for booking actual Virgin Atlantic flights. The rates aren’t great, and the surcharges and fees that get tacked on add up fast.
Virgin isn’t part of a major airline alliance, but a handful of partnerships with airlines open up a ton of great redemption opportunities. Among them, Virgin is a close partner with Delta Airlines, which owns a large stake in Virgin. Virgin Atlantic has struggled financially through the pandemic, but help from investors should help get it through largely unscathed.
And when it comes to pricing awards, the two airlines couldn’t be more different. Delta award prices are all over the map, fluctuating wildly based on day of the week, cash price, demand and more.
However, Virgin award rates are far more stable. And that’s true for the Delta award flights you can buy with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles too. A domestic flight on a Delta plane is almost always 25,000 Virgin Atlantic miles round trip. A trip to the Caribbean is 35,000 miles. First or business class to Asia should be 60,000 miles every time.
And maybe it’s just their close partnership, but Virgin Atlantic seems to have better access to saver-level Delta award flights than even SkyTeam partners like Air France/KLM or Korean Air. One big caveat to keep in mind is that you typically to book at least three (and sometimes four) weeks prior to departure – Virgin Atlantic often won’t have access to close-in Delta awards.
But what does this all mean for your miles? Let’s take a look.
Virgin Atlantic’s Award Chart for Delta Flights
While Delta pricing when using SkyMiles is all over the map because it doesn’t have an award chart, that’s not the case here. Virgin Atlantic’s website clearly spells out exactly what each and every Delta flight will cost you in miles.
We’ve broken it down into a handy chart with some of the best redemptions, with all pricing listed for one-way flights. Want to book a round-trip? Just double it.
|Route||Economy (one-way)||Business Class (one-way)|
|Within the U.S. (including Alaska) or to Canada||12,500 miles||22,500 miles|
|Mainland U.S. to Hawaii||20,000 miles||37,500 miles|
|U.S. to Mexico, Caribbean & Central America||17,500 miles||30,000 miles|
|U.S. to South America||22,500 miles||45,000 miles|
|U.S. to Europe||30,000 miles||50,000 miles|
|U.S. to Africa, Middle East & Asia||40,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|U.S. to Australia||50,000 miles||75,000 miles|
Follow the chart and you’ll see it will cost you 12,500 miles to book a one-way Delta flight within the U.S. A one-way business class award from the U.S. to Europe (or vice versa) will cost you 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. A round-trip from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii would cost you 40,000 miles in economy – or 75,000 miles in business class. You get the picture.
But there are two important caveats when booking Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic miles:
- You typically need to book at least three weeks before departure.
- Focus on nonstop flights, as Virgin charges per segment: A nonstop flight from the U.S. to Asia costs 60,000 miles in Delta One, but adding a domestic connection will bring that total up to 82,500 miles.
Let’s see these savings in action.
Examples of Serious Savings
We could go on and on about all the different ways you could save some serious miles by booking Delta flights through Virgin Atlantic. From economy flights to business class, it can be astounding.
Delta is infamous for charging an arm and a leg for award flights in Delta One business class. Seeing 300,000 SkyMiles or more for a one-way flight to Europe Asia is not out of the norm. For reference, most airlines charge 70,000 to 80,000 miles one-way for business class flights.
However, Delta wants at least 300,000 SkyMiles for a business class seat on the flight from Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam (AMS) next spring.
You can do much, much better by booking through Virgin Atlantic – at least if you’re flexible. Some of these exact same flights can be booked for just 50,000 miles each way. And that includes a fantastic Delta One Suite.
There can be serious savings on standard domestic flights, too. And given Delta’s habit of charging more for flights between its hubs, it seems to be a sweet spot for Virgin Atlantic. Check out the savings on flights from Atlanta (ATL) to Salt Lake City (SLC). later this month. Delta wants 26,500 miles for a one-way ticket in main cabin economy.
But the exact same flights are bookable for less than half the cost via Virgin Atlantic.
Want to fly Delta to Hawaii next year? Delta wants a whopping 42,000 SkyMiles for the one-way flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL) in main cabin economy.
But you can save some serious miles by booking with Virgin Atlantic … for just 20,000 miles.
The list goes on and on – we could do this for hours.
On the flipside, there are times when you’ll find much better award pricing directly through Delta. Delta’s seemingly nonstop flash sales are always worth checking out. And on some short domestic flights (think distances under 1,000 miles), Delta often has some low pricing that Virgin cannot beat.
How to Book through Virgin Atlantic
The savings can be enormous. But that doesn’t mean it will always be easy.
The hangup on booking flights through VirginAtlantic.com is that its website can be wonky. For first-timers, it’s sometimes difficult to pull up the routes you want. The search engine frequently won’t recognize airports that aren’t in Virgin’s route network.
Just type in your departing airport, then move to your destination. Sometimes it will work, but other times you’ll have to click the map icon and manually select your destination.
And then there’s the matter of finding award availability at these rates. Just because you can book a Delta One Suite to Tokyo for 60,000 miles doesn’t mean it will be available every single day you want to fly. You will need to be flexible. And that makes using Virgin Atlantic’s Calendar View to get a month-long look at award space critical.
There’s no rhyme nor reason for when these Delta flights are bookable. It rarely matches up with whenever Delta may be charging the lowest rates in SkyMiles. For months, it seemed that flying on a Tuesday or a Wednesday wass the best bet to book many Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic miles. But then the floodgates opened, with huge amounts of award availability to fly Delta One to Japan, for example.
It may take a few tries but keep at it and eventually, you’ll get the search function to work. And given the savings here, it’s worth the extra effort.
How to Get Virgin Atlantic Miles
Despite all their shortcomings, Delta SkyMiles are valuable in part because they’re so easy to earn. With four co-branded credit cards and the ability to transfer American Express Membership rewards to your SkyMiles account, there are plenty of options.
However, Virgin Atlantic Miles are even easier to pile up. That’s because it’s transfer partners with all three of the major bank’s points currencies. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.
So you could boost your Flying Club balance by opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has an 80,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months – more than enough to book a Delta One flight to Europe or Asia.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
The Platinum Card from American Express is another strong option for frequent flyers. The $550 annual fee may seem steep, but that comes with at least a 60,000-point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card membership and an unbeatable set of travel perks. But check to see if you qualify for a 125,000-point targeted bonus offer!
Best of all, American Express regularly offers transfer bonuses of 20% to 30% or more to Virgin Atlantic. That makes it even cheaper to book some of these Delta flights.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
We love Delta SkyMiles and we’re not shy about it. However, there are many cases where their SkyMiles award pricing doesn’t make sense. When Delta wants a boatload of SkyMiles, use Virgin Atlantic miles as your bridge to greatly reduce the cost of your Delta flights.
Lead photo courtesy of Chris Lindberg via Flickr