Virgin America Elevate gets a 50%+ discount on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia awards (thank goodness for sharp readers)

“You’ve missed the point,” began Karl Mitchell in calling The Rapid Traveler on his ignorance of Virgin America Elevate in yesterday’s review of the Virgin America Visa Signature card (card no longer available):

Virgin America points are worth roughly two miles in other programs. Consider that Amex Membership Rewards only offers 1:2 exchange, and that Virgin Atlantic redemptions are half the number of points as Flying Club miles. This is actually quite a good earn rate for such a cheap card, and the fact that it’s Visa Signature adds more value. The options for redemptions are, however, limited.

Indeed, The Rapid Traveler should have done research on Virgin America’s Elevate program before pronouncing the card another 1 point per dollar dud.

Let’s look at a New York JFK – London LHR roundtrip:

Virgin America redemption on Virgin Atlantic:
  • Economy: 15,000 points + $650 taxes and fees
  • Premium Economy: 25,000 points + $750 taxes and fees
  • Upper Class: 35,000 points + $1100 taxes and fees

Virgin Atlantic redemption on Virgin Atlantic:

  • Economy: 35,000 points + $660 taxes and fees
  • Premium Economy: 55,000 points + $770 taxes and fees
  • Upper Class: 80,000 points + $1105 taxes and fees

Even the taxes and fees are slightly higher booking through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club!

The pattern holds true throughout Virgin Atlantic (award calculator) and Virgin Australia (award calculator).

The taxes and fees are astronomical, but some travelers find them acceptable when redeeming for Upper Class, essentially treating it as buying an economy ticket and using points to upgrade.

For those specifically targeting Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia redemptions, the Virgin America credit card looks like a good everyday spend card. But since there is so little flexibility, it only for those intently committed to this specific purpose.

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  • Welcome back, Mr. RTC. Hope you had a wonderful trip. Is there shower facilities in your office :D?

  • @Jimmy – fortunately the owner of the guest house let me come back for a pre-flight shower because I had just spent 12 hours in in the blazing sun, hiking both the Argentina and Brazil sides of Iguazu Falls. Clothes were at the office and after a quick change I was back on a roll.

    Backup was the excellent VIP Club Lima (thank you Diner’s Club!).

  • james

    I was all excited to see SFO-JNB price out at 75k RT in Prem. economy – Whoops – $1550 in taxes & fees.

  • @james – yes, that is the big downside, the math really only starts to work (for some) in business class.

  • Asen

    great tip.. I wish the signup bonus was atleast 50K miles :). roundtrip to Australia with one credit card signup and $400 would sound a great deal

  • @Asen – hopefully the folks at Virgin America and Barclays come across this and decide to be competitive on the bonuses!

  • Karl Mitchell

    To me, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is somewhat beyond most other business classes, perhaps more akin to First Class in other airlines. The service and lounges are excellent, the bed-seats comfortable and the redemption availability is very good. Most importantly, they pass the sleep test, (i.e. I am able to do so) and there’s even an arrivals lounge with showers at LHR available. As a result I don’t really resent the higher fees, which are never exactly low for returns to London anyway. My VS miles are still worth something like 3c each (hence VA being about 6c) for LAX-LHR, for what is to my mind a great flight experience. If Air New Zealand business redemption availability were better, though, I’d consider that as an alternative.