Happy New Year! Virgin Atlantic Devalues Awards On Delta With No Notice

In general Virgin Atlantic has some of the least valuable miles but their points are ubiquitous since they’re a transfer partner of Chase, Ameriacn Express, and Citibank. They do have real sweet spots. My favorite is using their miles for ANA first class round trip to Tokyo for just 120,000 miles.

Perhaps their most useful redemption was award travel on Delta. One way business class awards have been:

  • South America 45,000 miles
  • Africa 60,000 miles
  • Australia 75,000 miles
  • Europe 50,000 miles

Now, they have two different award charts for travel on Delta. The first is for flights between the U.S. and U.K.:

One-way Coach Off-Peak Coach Peak Business Off-Peak Business Peak
Boston/New York/Philadelphia 15,000 25,000 47,500 57,500
Atlanta/Detroit/Minneapolis 17,500 27,500 47,500 57,500
Porland, Salt Lake City 20,000 30,000 67,500 77,500

Peak travel dates are: 20 June 2020 – 6 September 2020, 12 December 2020 – 31 December 2020, 1 January 2021 – 5 January 2021, 26March 2021 – 19 April 2021, 19 June 2021 – 5 September 2021, 15 October 2021 – 26 October 2021, 11 December 2021 – 31 December 2021

They actually consider dates in March 2021 to require peak pricing when Covid-19 is raging on both sides of the Atlantic. Seriously.

All other routes are distance-based:

One-way distance Coach Business
0-500 7,500 17,500
501-1,000 8,500 27,500
1,001-1,500 11,500 40,000
1,501-2,000 12,500 45,000
2,001-3,000 15,000 52,500
3,001-4,000 22,500 80,000
4,001-5,000 27,500 105,000
5,001-6,000 35,000 130,000
6,001+ 45,000 165,000

The Points Guy quotes a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson non-ironically explaining that this devaluation “contribute[s] to some considerable savings on reward seats.”

Up is down, black is white, war is peace, freedom is slavery. And coach flights up to 1500 miles, and premium cabin flights up to 500 miles are cheaper. East Coast – London in business class on off-peak dates lets you save 2500 miles each way. Dan’s Deals notes that you’ll save 5000 miles each way for coach between New York JFk and Tel Aviv. So there’s that.

And coach to Europe is cheaper. At least if you fly non-stop, connecting flights are charged separately so they’re generally a bad deal even in coach. Business class long haul goes up 60% to 100% or more.

Gradually over time Virgin Atlantic has eliminated sweet spots in its frequent flyer program, whether valuable Hilton transfers or cheap Air China premium cabin awards. Eventually even the amazing ANA business and first class redemptions will go away, and strong Air New Zealand redemptions too (not that there’s much availability for those), probably around contract renewal time.

Virgin Atlantic did eliminate expiration of miles but that’s copying a Delta move, Delta owns 49% of and largely controls the airline. They also now give elite qualifying miles for award travel on their own flights but paying their fuel surcharges is more or less like traveling on a paid ticket anyway.

Delta SkyMiles devalued partner awards during the pandemic so I guess it’s no surprise that Virgin Atlantic did too, and that they started with their redemptions on Delta?

Update: I am told that Thrifty Traveler noticed this first.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is just absurd because airlines right now should be going out of their way to increase the value proposition of loyalty programs. What executive in their right mind would penalize loyal customers at a time when many airlines have no customers?

    The Points Guy has no creditability. How much did Delta or Virgin Atlantic pay them in the past year or two for advertorial content? Has anyone noticed that lately TPR writers are now taking free trips. I’ve noticed several writers posting “reviews“ based on free trips. They never used to accept freebies.

  2. @FNT Delta Diamond – I didn’t intend to criticize TPG for carrying a statement from Virgin Atlantic about the change. I think it’s an absurd statement on its face, and the reader can judge that for themselves. I realize the way I phrased the sentence probably came across in a different manner than I’d intended it, and I’ve edited the sentence. I meant to suggest that the *spokesperson* offered the statement with a straight face.

  3. Gary does this or any other move by the airlines surprise you today? Some of it “knee jerk reactions” some long time contemplated others current events. Just like AS and AA then AS to OW will become a disaster for us long time AS flyers, especially us MM’er. More so the longer Parker is still at AA it will continue its downward spiral.

    Happy New Year Gary you did a great job last year and looking forward to walking onto some metal this year! Am booked for London in late July should be sufficient time for the vaccines to take hold was advised by someone in DC not to do the continent this year.

  4. Let’s see how long it will be until the massive airline program devaluations start happening as a result of a recovery in flight travel demand and reduced capacity due to prior “right-sizing” by the airlines in light of the pandemic-induced drop in travel demand.

  5. GUWonder now that is a great question coupled with how deep will the airlines go in retiring their pigs for the more efficient birds?

  6. HNY everyone!
    I don’t think the root of this activity has anything to do with current travel demand and/or lack thereof. This screams cashflow and mortgaging of FF programs. Once the FF program was separated and monies borrowed against, it was a very short matter of time before mileage requirements were going to go through the roof. There was no way that deflation wasn’t going to occur.
    Anyways, that’s the way I see it. And Ed B. too!

  7. @ Gary — I took up most of my day, but we just used 220,000 miles for a non-Delta award for two. Now, I feel better…

  8. What is the PHL-LHR option for 47,500 miles in business they reference? DL doesn’t fly that route…will they let you connect in BOS for the same number of miles? Thought Virgin awards on DL metal were billed by segment.

  9. It looks like on their website they may be implying that they will be charging taxes and fees almost equivalent to flying Virgin Atlantic metal on delta flights to London from Boston and the other cities included on the first award chart. Is that what you are seeing? That would be another huge element of this devaluation.

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