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 rip-off.
With no award chart to set pricing, Delta can charge whatever it wants for a given flight. And when Delta decides it wants a lot, you’re out of luck. But not necessarily…
Here’s your new mantra: Anytime Delta wants a boatload of SkyMiles, see if you can snag the flight for less using Virgin Atlantic points instead. While this relationship has taken a hit over the years due to a major devaluation, there are still some major sweet spots to book Delta flights for fewer miles – especially if you're heading for Europe. And these points are incredibly easy to earn: While you can't transfer your SkyMiles to Virgin, you can transfer them from all the major credit cards including Chase, American Express, Capital One, Citi, and even Bilt Rewards.
It remains far and away the best way to book Delta One business class, helping you score a lie-flat seat to Europe for just 50,000 points … even when Delta is charging 300,000 SkyMiles or more for the exact same flight.
- Delta and Virgin: A Perfect Partnership
- Virgin Atlantic's Award Chart for Delta Flights
- Examples of Serious Savings
- Another Sweet Spot: Mixed-Partner Awards to Europe
- How to Book Delta Flights through Virgin Atlantic
- How to Get Virgin Atlantic Points
Delta and Virgin: A Perfect Partnership
Virgin Atlantic is the chic airline that flies across the Atlantic Ocean and the brainchild of business magnate Richard Branson. Strangely, its frequent flyer program, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, typically 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 is set to join the SkyTeam alliance later this year, but it's got no closer partner airline than Delta Air Lines. Delta owns a large stake in Virgin – almost half the airline, in fact. Virgin Atlantic struggled financially through the pandemic, but it's flying high now.
But 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. Unfortunately, those rates took a major hit to kick off 2021 as Virgin Atlantic subbed in a distance-based award chart for nearly all Delta flights that doubled (and in some cases tripled) the cost of booking many awards … overnight.
Fortunately, it's not all bad news. Most flights to Europe have escaped unscathed, so there's still plenty of value booking Delta flights to Europe using Virgin Atlantic points. And there are a few other sweet spots worth exploring.
Pricing is one thing, but you also need to find award availability to book a Delta flight using Virgin points. It can be unpredictable, but it can be done.
So 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.
Virgin Atlantic has three distinct award charts for booking Delta flights. There's one specifically for booking flights between the U.S. and Virgin's London-Heathrow (LHR) hub, which comes with some punishing fees.
Then there are flights between the U.S. and the rest of Europe, where pricing is as stable as can be. There's one price for economy, and one price for business class – that's it.
And finally, there's everything else. Trying to fly Delta within the U.S., to Mexico or the Caribbean, or out to Asia or Australia? Those rates are governed by this distance-based award chart. And that means long-haul flights will cost you many more miles than they used to.
Read more: Virgin Atlantic Just Destroyed Delta Redemption Sweet Spots
We've broken it down into a handy chart with some of the most popular redemptions, with all pricing listed for one-way flights. Want to book a round-trip? Just double it. As you can see, some of these flights are far more reasonable than others.
|Route||Economy (one-way)||Business Class (one-way)|
|Flights under 500 miles||7,500 miles||17,500 miles|
|Flights 501-1,000 miles||8,500 miles||27,500 miles|
|U.S. to Europe (excluding U.K.)||30,000 miles||50,000 miles|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND)||35,000 miles||130,000 miles|
|Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND)||27,500 miles||105,000 miles|
|Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN)||45,000 miles||165,000 miles|
|New York City (JFK) to Sao Paulo (GRU)||27,500 miles||105,000 miles|
|Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD)||45,000 miles||165,000 miles|
Not sure how long your flight is? Plug it into GCmap.com.
Follow the chart and you'll see the shortest domestic flights start at 7,500 miles each way. Even flights up to 1,000 miles can be a deal at just 8,500 miles each way in economy. Most flights to Europe remain a bargain at just 50,000 miles each way in Delta One business class. But long-haul flights elsewhere on Delta will cost you much, much more.
There are three important caveats when booking Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic miles:
- Great award rates are one thing, but first you need to find the availability to book these Delta flights via Virgin … and that can require some serious flexibility (especially if you're aiming to fly Delta business class)
- You typically need to book at least three weeks before departure, otherwise you won't see Delta flights when searching through Virgin Atlantic, period
- You'll want to focus on nonstop flights, as Virgin charges per segment. If your flight involves a connection, Virgin Atlantic will measure the distance of each flight and add them together for the final total
With that out of the way, 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.
On the flip side, there are times when you’ll find much better award pricing directly through Delta. The seemingly nonstop Delta SkyMiles flash sales are always worth checking out. And on some short domestic flights (think distances under 1,000 miles), Delta can have some low pricing that Virgin cannot beat.
But these examples prove just how much you can save by turning to Virgin Atlantic to book your Delta flights.
Business Class to Europe for 50K
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 is not out of the norm. For reference, most airlines charge 70,000 to 80,000 miles one-way for business class flights, if not substantially less.
However, Delta wants at least 240,000 SkyMiles for a business class seat on the flight from New York City (JFK) to Brussels (BRU) this spring. No thank you.
You can do much, much better by booking through Virgin Atlantic. That exact same flights can be booked for just 50,000 miles each way. You may need to be flexible, as finding availability through Virgin Atlantic can be a challenge – especially lately.
But when you can make it work, it's a steal. The exact same flight – same date, same plane, same Delta One seat – for 200,000 fewer miles? That's the definition of a no-brainer move.
Want award alerts for opportunities to book flights like this? Get them delivered straight to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+, along with cheap domestic and international fares!
But making this magical redemption work can be easier said than done. Sometimes, Delta will release plenty of these seats to book via Virgin Atlantic. Other times, you can scroll through months of flights without seeing a single seat – or your search may just error out.
That's where Thrifty Traveler Premium+ comes in to do the legwork for you. We're always digging for when these flights pop up and alerting our members when they do, like this incredibly rare chance to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Amsterdam (AMS) in Delta One in early 2023.
These seats are gone now, get the next award alert for open Delta One seats to Europe with Thrifty Traveler Premium+!
Last year, we also found plenty of dates this winter and into spring 2023 available at 50,000 points each way flying from New York City to Amsterdam as well as an incredibly rare chance to book Delta One business class between Salt Lake City and Paris. Best of all, these routes are flying Delta's A330-900neo – Delta One suite, anyone?!
As you can see, deals this good aren't available every single day. Flexibility is key. Anecdotally, Tuesday and Wednesday departures seem to be the best bet – and that's if you can find these seats at all.
Domestic Delta Flights
Looking to stay closer to home? Flying domestically on Delta is also a great sweet spot when redeeming Virgin points – especially on short hops
Flights under 500 miles in distance are only 7,500 points one-way. Going a little further? it's only 8,500 points one-way for flights between 501 – 1,000 miles. This can be a much better deal than using SkyMiles if you're just looking for a quick flight to or from a major Delta hub – especially considering you'll get a main cabin ticket with free seat selection, not a pesky Delta basic economy fare.
You can even find some solid savings on longer flights, especially given Delta’s habit of charging more for flights between its hubs. Check out the savings on flights from Atlanta (ATL) to Salt Lake City (SLC) this summer. Delta wants 29,000 miles for a one-way ticket in main cabin economy.
But the exact same flights are bookable for less than half that mileage via Virgin Atlantic.
The list goes on and on – we could do this for hours. And unlike those hard-to-find business class awards to Europe, these domestic redemptions tend to be much easier to find with Virgin.
Flights to Hawaii from 30K
Want to fly Delta nonstop to Hawaii but not liking the price you see with SkyMiles? We've got you there.
Flights from both Seattle (SEA) and Los Angeles (LAX) all clock in at under 3,000 miles, which means they can be booked for 15,000 Virgin Atlantic points one-way or just 30,000 roundtrip.
You may see Delta selling some of these routes from the West Coast for slightly fewer SkyMiles in Delta Basic Economy but you'll always get a Main Cabin ticket when booking Delta flights with Virgin points. And availability on these shorter nonstop Hawaii routes tends to be fairly good through Virgin.
Even the longer flights from Minneapolis all the way to Honolulu are a solid deal at 45,000 miles roundtrip. Just keep in mind: You have to book nonstop. If you've got two segments, Virgin Atlantic will tally up the cost for both segments separately.
Booking with SkyMiles, those exact same flights to Hawaii would regularly cost you 90,000 SkyMiles or more!
Nonstops to Mexico & the Caribbean for Less
Hawaii isn't the only warm spot you can get to flying Delta using Virgin Atlantic for fewer miles.
Whether you're looking to get to Mexico City (MEX), Cancún (CUN), Puerto Vallarta (PVR), or somewhere further, you might be able to save some serious SkyMiles by turning to your Virgin Atlantic points instead, thanks to the airline's distance-based pricing format for these relatively short flights.
For example, while Delta wants 54,000 SkyMiles for these flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Cancun and back in April…
… you can book those exact same flights for just 25,000 Virgin Atlantic points – less than half the cost!
And that's just one example. So long as you can fly nonstop, there are often solid savings by looking and booking through Virgin Atlantic.
Fly Delta to Japan from 55K Roundtrip
Another quirky deal to fly Delta using Virgin points is flying nonstop from Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) for only 55,000 miles roundtrip in economy.
Due to the longer distance, nonstop flights to Tokyo from other U.S. cities like Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), or Detroit (DTW) will run you 70,000 Virgin points roundtrip, which can still be a decent deal. But the savings in Seattle are substantial.
Another Sweet Spot: Mixed-Partner Awards to Europe
While Virgin Atlantic has lost some of its luster in the last year due to award rate increases, there's another bright spot.
Air France and KLM teamed up with Virgin Atlantic a few years ago, meaning you can book a flight on Air France or KLM with Virgin Atlantic miles. But more importantly, Virgin also added the ability to book mixed-partner awards. That allows you to fly long-haul with Delta to Europe, and then connect onward almost anywhere within Western Europe on Air France/KLM … for as low as 58,000 Virgin Atlantic points total in business.
You see, Virgin Atlantic calculates the price on a per-segment basis. It's always 50,000 miles for that transatlantic flight on Delta, of course. And for the connecting flight within Europe Virgin Atlantic’s award chart for Air France/KLM redemptions spells out some very cheap award rates: Flights under 600 miles will cost 8,000 miles each way during off-peak seasons – and just 9,000 during peak seasons like summer and the holidays.
With a cap of 600 miles, you can reach almost anywhere in Western Europe (and even some of Eastern Europe, too) from Amsterdam (AMS) or Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Parts of Scandinavia and much of Italy are in reach, too, depending on whether you connect through Amsterdam or Paris.
So in the end, the process looks like this:
- Fly nonstop business class to Amsterdam or Paris from one of Delta’s U.S. hubs like New York City (JFK), Boston (BOS), Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Seattle (SEA), or Los Angeles (LAX).
- Connect onward to your final European destination no more than 600 miles away with Air France or KLM.
That adds up to just 58,000 Virgin Atlantic miles – or 59,000 if you fly during the peak season. Best of all, these mixed-partner itineraries are easy to search and book online: Just search the entire itinerary – for example, New York City (JFK) to Prague (PRG) – and Virgin Atlantic will pull together the mixed-partner booking automatically in the results if they’re available. Of course, it really hinges on finding availability flying Delta One across the pond, which can be difficult.
Read our full guide to making the most of this mixed-partner award sweet spot!
How to Book Delta Flights 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 “See full airport list” and manually select the airport you're looking for.
And then there's the matter of finding award availability at these rates. Just because you can book a Delta One flight to Amsterdam (AMS) for 50,000 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.
Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic made it a bit harder to find hone in on the best deals by removing the ability to pull up a month-long price calendar. But don't worry: There's a backdoor way to pull that up. Just find the phrase “flexible dates” in the URL, replace “dates” with “calendar,” then hit enter or return on your keyboard and it should bring up the price calendar. Start scrolling through the calendar to find the flights that work for you.
There's no rhyme nor reason for when these Delta flights are bookable. Sometimes you'll have a few dates to pick from, and other times the award space will vanish entirely. Being flexible not just on your travel dates but also routes is critical – especially if you're looking to fly Delta One to Europe.
Every once in a while, the floodgates open with Delta One award availability for days on end. It rarely matches up with whenever Delta may be charging the lowest rates in SkyMiles.
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.
Read our complete guide to using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club!
How to Get Virgin Atlantic Points
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 points to your SkyMiles account, there are plenty of options.
However, Virgin Atlantic Points are even easier to pile up. Unfortunately, you can't transfer Delta SkyMiles to a Virgin Atlantic account. Yet Virgin points are some of the easiest to earn since you can instantly transfer points to Virgin at a 1:1 ratio from all major transferrable points programs.
If you're earning Amex Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, and Citi ThankYou points, those can be transferred to Virgin. And if you're earning points on rent, you can also transfer Bilt Rewards. Just beware that with both Bilt and Capital One, you'll actually transfer points to your Virgin Red account – check out our walkthrough of how to do it!
If you're just starting out with points and miles, we consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the best travel rewards credit card for beginners. Currently, you can earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. And with 3x points per dollar spent for dining and 2x points for travel purchases, it's really easy to rack up a ton of Chase points that can be instantly transferred to Virgin points.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is loaded with benefits such as access to Capital One Lounges and Priority Pass lounges, a $300 annual travel credit, a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, great travel and rental car insurance protection, and more. The annual fee clocks in at $395 a year, but the benefits can easily outweigh that.
The best part is that you can currently earn 75,000 Venture Miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Considering you earn at least 2x for every dollar you spend on the Venture X Card, you’ll earn a total of at least 83,000 Venture Miles, which can be transferred instantly to 83,000 Virgin points. That alone is enough to fly Delta One business class to Europe from anywhere in the U.S.
Click Here to learn more about the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
The American Express® Gold Card is currently offering a 60,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first six months. Better yet, you may be able to qualify for a whopping 75,000-point welcome bonus using CardMatch – or even find a 90,000-point bonus if you're lucky!
Beyond that bonus, this card is easily one of the best all-around travel cards on the market thanks largely to an unbeatable 4x return on an unlimited amount of spending at restaurants and 4x points on up to $25,000 a year spent at U.S. supermarkets – and 1x points after that.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Gold Card.
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, you may be able to use Virgin Atlantic miles as your bridge to greatly reduce the cost of your Delta flights.
Lead photo courtesy of Chris Lindberg via Flickr
This function does not work. Tried several times to search MSP-BOM kept getting message ‘We’re sorry. There are no scheduled Virgin Atlantic or Partner flights between Minneapolis St Paul – Minneapolis-St Paul International (MSP) and Mumbai – Chhatrapati Shivaji Intl (BOM). Please try again with an alternative airport’
Our post should have noted that Virgin’s search function struggles with anything beyond a nonstop flight. You can call Virgin Atlantic to check on availability and book for a more complicated routing.
I’m having similar issues – Virgin Atlantic isn’t even recognizing GGT (Georgetown, Bahamas) whereas I can search those flights on Delta. Any thoughts or ideas to help out with that?
There are just some airports that Virgin Atlantic cannot pull up, and I wouldn’t be shocked if GGT was one of them. You could try calling Virgin Atlantic and see if an agent can pull them up.
Can you use Delta Skymiles to book on virgin atlantic and see savings? Not clear from your article whether there is arbitrage going the opposite way from Delta sky Miles to virgin Atlantic.
Sort of. It can be tricky to find, but you can book Virgin Atlantic flights with SkyMiles for as low as 25k one-way in economy or 75k in business class. Delta frequently charges far, far more for its own flights.
I found a great low cost flight on the virgin Atlantic app. I just want to earn sky miles bc the app says the flight is a delta flight. However, I don’t see anyway to add my skymiles number. Any suggestions.
On a cash fare? You should be able to enter your SkyMiles number at some point during checkout. If not, take the record locator (6-digit code) and enter it at Delta.com, then go in and enter your SkyMiles number to the reservation.
Alternatively, you could credit the flight to Virgin Atlantic instead!
Yeah, The map is useless, it doesn’t even include a single airport in japan, and South Korea literally isn’t even on the drop down even though delta has direct flights from atlanta to ICN. What we need here, is directions on how to get around the fact that Virgin Atlantic’s website is quite frankly useless, in order to use the points. Other than blindly calling customer service and asking them to search for us. Can we just check Delta’s website and assume that if a route is within a certain amount of miles that it is qualifies as a saver route and is thus available, at which time we can just call virgin atlantic and say “hey, book this flight, its available” ? If so, please give us some of those tips because this…..just doesn’t work
Tim, it’s definitely frustrating. Most Japanese airports do show up on the website (you often have to use the map icon to manually select the airport, as described in the story). Seoul-Incheon is one that you can never get to show up on the web, though there are plenty of others.
As for using Delta as a guide, it’s, unfortunately, a total guessing game. There are definitely times when the lowest award rates via Delta will be a guide to what you can find via Virgin Atlantic. But then there are other times when Delta’s rates are exorbitantly high and you can STILL get one of these amazing awards via Virgin. So really, the best thing to do is simply use the 5-week view on Virgin’s site, stay flexible, and see what you can find. In those instances like with ICN where you can’t get any results online, use the reasonable SkyMiles rates via Delta.com as a VERY ROUGH guide for Virgin agents to see what they can help you find.
What url or website is required to access sapphire premium points.
Do i have to first transfer delta miles to virgin flyer club for these redemptions? Or is there a way to book virgin flights using delta sky miles?
You cannot use or transfer Delta SkyMiles to book these flights. You would have to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
This worked great for me in late March. I needed to fly three from LHR to ATL ..
Cash price was $3,900 for three one way.
Skymiles was 390,000!!! 130,000 for a one way coach ticket is crazy.
Virgin was 51,000 total of their miles for the same delta flight and about $370 fees.
All on the same plane!
Well done Mark!
I found great flights on VA, but still cannot figure out how to actually book with my Delta points. Can you explain in detail how this is done. I could not figure it out from your article.
You cannot book these flights on VA’s website using your Delta SkyMiles. You need Virgin miles, which you can get by transferring from either American Express or Chase.
Can you please explain how you get the calendar view to show up? I have tried different browsers as well. I have the Flexible Dates box checked. I just get the error that no flights are available. You end up searching 1 day at a time and get nowhere. I am checking all kinds of routes as well, so I am very flexible on everything.
Unfortunately, you just have to go through trial and error until you find a result where there’s at least one flight available in the week you’re searching. From there, you can pull up the calendar view and scroll through month by month. I’d try searching 10-11 months out to see if you can pull up any results to start.
That’s what I thought…ugh. Thanks.
BTW, I think the SEA to LHR exemption is gone. I may be late to the party. I just found SEA to LHR for 67,500, not 50k, and it has fees of $826 in late May.
Looking at the Skymiles Airline Partners area of Delta’s website I’m having difficulty determining if using VA points to book a flight on KLM operated or Air France will earn miles, MQMs, etc. towards Delta status. It looks like using VA points to book on Delta operated will, but the KLM/AF sweet spot out of MSP is hard to pass up. Do you have any data points on this? Thanks.
No, you will not earn toward elite status with Delta using Virgin points. But that sweet spot is absolutely too good to pass up.
Ooft, unfortunate but still a great redemption. Do you think that will change once VA is officially a Skyteam Partner?
I highly doubt it but let’s hope I’m wrong!
Is it possible to fly DTW nonstop to HNL using Virgin points?
It sure is, though finding these flights that are actually bookable is somewhat rare.
Do you know if you are eligible for complimentary upgrades (e.g., economy comfort) with Delta status when you use Virgin points?
If I book a reward flight through Virgin, but the flight is operated by DL, and I attach my SkyMiles number to it, will I earn anything with Skymiles, such as MQMs/MQDs?
No you will not, sadly.
This article is the best summary of the use of Virgin Atlantic points on other SkyTeam partners that I have run across. Noting that the VA website is clunky, for example changing the origin in the search function automatically deletes the destination, and a person has to remember to click on “advanced search” and then choose “points,” else the search function may return nothing (apparently there is no way to buy with money other SkyTeam airline tickets on the website). On other websites a person gets dollar values instead of points, realizes the mistake, and searches again looking for points redemptions. Also a person may need to search an off-peak date and then pull up the monthly calendar, and toggle ahead or back to the desired peak month to see availability around the desired dates. It can be so frustrating to keep searching peak dates one by one and return no availability.
Some comments working with 3 destinations in 2023.
1. Peak availability is poor for summer months to Europe or spring break weekends domestically, even if a person starts searching 11 months in advance and periodically after that. I did however find a one-way to Prague on Air France in July, only coach was available.
2. For domestic Delta flights, VA points availability favors 6 am departures, but better flights can open at any time. I just found something at a good time in June and was able to cancel 2 seats and get refunded 50,000 Delta miles, and get the same flight for 25,000 VA points.
3. Currently watching 2 other domestic Delta flights to make a similar substitution if VA availability arises. To use this strategy book one ways and do not book Delta basic economy since those award tickets are not refundable.
4. Watch for the periodic % bonus increases on transfers of points from credit cards point systems to VA points.
Do you know how you can upgrade a seat with them? I just bought a ticket via Virgin Atlantic flying Delta and I have main cabin but would to upgrade to comfort plus.