Virgin Atlantic Tacks on Huge Fees to Delta Award Flights

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[Update] Virgin has reversed these fees and they are no longer appearing during the booking process. See our post here

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program has been a strong option to score Delta awards on the cheap. It looks like that’s changing.

While Delta frequently charges 200,000 for a flight in Delta One to Europe, you could snag the same flight using just 50,000 miles from Virgin Atlantic. You could also score some serious savings on flights to Japan or elsewhere in Asia. Even domestic Delta flights can often be booked for fewer miles using Virgin’s more stable award pricing chart.

Savings like this run across the board. And considering you can get Virgin miles by transferring any of the major credit card points, it was easy. We’ve written about this workaround at length.

However, there’s bad news on that front, as Virgin Atlantic seems to be tacking on massive surcharges on international Delta flights. We’re talking an extra $150 on flights to Japan, or $500 or more for one-way business class flights to Europe.

It’s still unclear whether these fee increases are just a glitch or permanent, but it doesn’t look promising.

Take a look at these flights in Delta One from Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam (AMS). Virgin Atlantic was one of the best ways to book these flights, as Delta itself often charges up to 300,000 SkyMiles. At 50,000 miles one-way with nominal fees, Virgin Atlantic was the best way to book Delta business class to Europe. That flight is still 50,000 Flying Club miles. But now there’s an eye-popping $526.90 fee on top of it.


Virgin Atlantic Delta Fees


Economy awards to Europe are also getting hit with fees. It looks like most economy Delta flights between the U.S. and Europe now have a $193 surcharge when booking with Virgin Atlantic miles.

What a shame. The low mileage requirements and low fees for Virgin Atlantic awards made it the best way to book Delta flights to Europe with miles. And considering Air France/KLM Flying Blue always levies some pretty heavy fees on award flights in and out of Europe, this was one of the best ways to book European business class flights period. But no more. And sadly, it’s not just Europe getting hit.

You used to be able to book a flight in Delta’s fancy new Delta One suite on a flight to Asia for just 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. Considering Delta itself frequently charges 300,000 or more SkyMiles for the same flight, it was the obvious choice.


Virgin Atlantic Delta Fees


Now the $5.60 fees on those flights have skyrocketed to $152.90. And that’s the case whether you’re flying business class or economy.


Virgin Atlantic Delta Fees


Delta, meanwhile, is still charging just $5.60 in fees on the exact same flight. So again, it seems Virgin has decided to slap a carrier surcharge on this once-lucrative partner booking strategy. Fortunately, it appears that domestic flights on Delta remain untouched – at least for now. You can still expect to pay $5.60 each way when booking a domestic Delta flight with Virgin Atlantic miles.

Thrifty Tip: Want to learn more about how to book Delta Awards with Virgin Atlantic miles? See our full guide.


Our Analysis

We can’t overstate what a bummer this is for Delta flyers. Virgin Atlantic has been one of the best ways to book Delta flights with miles. These fee increases take a sledgehammer to the value of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.  That’s particularly true when it comes to flights to Europe. It simply doesn’t make sense to pay $500-plus in fees to fly Delta business class one way. You’re better off hunting for a deal directly through Delta.

Booking Delta One to Japan or elsewhere in Asia could still make sense through Virgin Atlantic. The new, $153 surcharge on those flights is largely in line with what you’ll pay on many other airlines. But still, this is a major devaluation and a disappointment.

And it just underscores an important principle in the world of miles and points. Good workarounds like these don’t last forever. Airlines will eventually close them. They always do and it is why you should use your points. One thing is certain in the world of miles and points, they are not going to get more valuable over time. 


Bottom Line

We’re still hoping this is a technical glitch rather than a permanent fee increase. But don’t hold your breath. It looks like the ways to save some serious SkyMiles by booking Delta flights through Virgin Atlantic have dwindled.  


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Lead photo courtesy of Chris Lundberg via Flickr.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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