Redeeming Award Tickets on Virgin Atlantic Without Fuel Surcharges

Hawaiian Airlines offers a really frustrating frequent flyer program.

Their airline partner redemptions can be really expensive (e.g. Korean Airlines business class between the U.S. and Korea runs 200,000 miles roundtrip — and doesn’t allow connections to other destinations in Asia). They are restrictive — you cannot combine partners on an award ticket, you cannot have a stopover on an award ticket, and you cannot even book an ‘open jaw’ flying into one city and back from another.

Talking to Hawaiian Airlines agents can be a frustrating experience. They’re on par with Delta agents, they simply don’t know the ins and outs of their program. One must frequently hang up, call back to get what you’re after.

And their call center hours are even quite limited, on the East Coast of the U.S. I have to wait until 2pm to begin speaking to them. One finds oneself on the phone to do most things, as their web functionality is quite limited as well.

But Milevalue reminds me of the best value that the program offers — award redemptions on Virgin Atlantic without fuel surcharges.

This is what their terms and conditions have to say about the taxes and fees charged on award tickets.

HawaiianMiles flight awards are subject to applicable departure taxes, federal inspection fees, passenger facility charges and/or other taxes, fees and charges assessed by appropriate authorities. All taxes and fees are the responsibility of the member and must be paid at the time of redemption.

(Emphasis mine.)

They add government fees, not airline add-on fees.

Here’s the award chart for Virgin Atlantic redemptions:

Hawaiian offers redemptions in premium economy even, which few programs do on partner airlines. Virgin’s business class often has excellent availability, depending on the particular route. The award chart is competitive with most others for US – London and for US-Asia and US-Africa in business. Meanwhile you can save $750 – $1500 per person in cash by redeeming through HawaiianMiles without fuel surcharges.

Virgin has an excellent business class product, true lie flat seats, and really nice lounges in San Francisco, New York, London, and Hong Kong for instance.

You can transfer points from hotel programs like Starwood to Hawaiian Airlines, from American Express Membership Rewards as well, and you can also earn these points via Amazon purchases (it’s the only mileage program that offers Amazon points-earning).

You’ll be frustrated in almost any call to Hawaiian, but many will find that frustration worth it to book Los Angeles – London – Nairobi for 140,000 miles roundtrip in business class without fuel surcharges.

To find these awards, you’ll want to sign up for a Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer account and search their website for award availability. Note the specific flights that are available as awards on Virgin’s site. Then call Hawaiian to request those flights. Don’t get too frustrated or give up when a Hawaiian agent tells you the space isn’t available, most likely the agent doesn’t know how to search Virgin award space properly, you’ll need to hang up, call back. Many times perhaps. But eventually you should prevail.

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, 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. I have to disagree regarding Virgin’s business class product. Overall, I found the service and food to be mediocre and the seat claustrophobic. And the upper deck of the 747 is mixed with economy class, making it much too crowded. I suppose i would have had a better experience on an Airbus, but overall was just not impressed.

  2. I think the seat is pretty good. For food and service I didn’t mention those as strong points
    .. they are British…

  3. IMHO it’s a pretty good business class seat. Certainly better than Lufthansa, Air France, United’s legacy 777 (flat), American, ANA, JAL, SAS, Thai, etc.

    They often with pretty decent availability from several of their gateways.

  4. When I tried to do this a little while back, the agent told me that to go to sydney from chicago would require one award to london and then another to sydney. Do you know if this is correct? If you can, is it possible to get a stopover in Hong Kong?

  5. Yep, my questions are:

    Changes after departure?

    None of which are addressed in the Ts&Cs.

  6. I have never tried to book US – Australia via London and Hong Kong on Virgin Atlantic using Hawaiian miles. Since the chart does say *anywhere else in the world* that Virgin flies one could presumably do it but in practice one may not be permitted to do so.

    As far as I can tell roundtrips only, no stopovers and no open jaws permitted.

  7. Aren’t they introducing a new UC product? I was happy with the old one and this looks even better.

  8. Gary,

    My mom, clueless travelwise, cluelessly transferred nearly 100k AMEX points to Virgin Atlantic due to an ad for a transer bonus… any suggestions on how to use the Virgin Atlanic miles and avoid the massive fuel surcharges??

  9. @Shawn – bit the bullet on the fuel surcharges and just be happy getting business class for marginally less than the price of coach

  10. Gary, if no stopovers/openjaws are allowed, a Los Angeles-London-Nairobi trip wouldn’t be possible, would it? I am interested in the JFK-London-Sydney, too.

  11. @Shawn, I believe you can transfer to Hilton pts at 1:2 ratio. 2x Hilton pts are worth more than the Virgin Atlantic miles IMHO. Unless you like flying business class. Also I generally find I need more hotel points than miles.

  12. Could you fly between Vancouver and London on Virgin? I live near Seattle and would rather fly nonstop from Vancouver than connect in LA, but their reward chart only says continental US to UK.

  13. I’ve been slowly racking up Hawaiian miles because they are one of the few earning partners for Amazon. Although I see Ebates is offering 3% at amazon at the moment.

  14. My one experience with HA agents was very positive. I was looking to book RT to OGG from PHX at the lowest mileage amount(35K) and looking for available dates to different airports in Hawaii. I thought I found the perfect itinerary and booked it only to realize afterward that I had inserted KOA on the return instead of OGG which I wanted. I called them up and even though there wasn’t availability from OGG on the date I needed they opened some up in order to accommodate me. I have no status with them so I couldn’t believe it. I thought at the very least I would have to buy a ticket from OGG to KOA or pay to cancel the itinerary and start over.

  15. @gary (not @Gary) No, it’s incredibly easy to book flights to Hawaii with Hawaiian Miles. Hawaiian has incredible availability. The only problem is Hawaiian’s limited route network (west coast plus Phoenix plus JFK).

  16. @Thanh P.
    Sounds like you can connect en route, just not stopover for 24+ hours.

  17. Anybody has any experience redeeming HA miles for virgin atlantic flights? It would be sweet to redeem 70K HA miles collected from 2x35K sign-up bonuses.

    I’m on west coast and availability to HI on HA is easy from here. But you can buy those tickets for $400 to $500 so I don’t find it a great value, especially if you can earn 5000 EQMs on that trip. I’d like to get atleast $1100 value from 70K HA miles.

    I haven’t read any experiences redeeming HA miles for Virgin flights.

  18. i didn’t even know about this method. I guess it hasn’t really been well publicized on the blogs…I’ve always transferred them to Hilton, but this sounds like a better method (for most) if availability ends up being reasonably well

  19. By spending the past hour on google researching this…i have yet to find anyone that has successfully redeem Hawaiian miles on the 70k economy award (or biz for that matter) on Virgin Atlantic.

    Seems to be a mirage

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