Unlocking the Virgin Australia Award Chart (Now that They’re a Starwood Transfer Partner)

Virgin Australia has more non-stop award availability, especially in premium cabins, between the US and Australia than anyone else. By far.

They have flights from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. I’ve managed to get four business class awards on the Brisbane flight over Christmas.

They’re a Delta frequent flyer partner, and though Delta charges a pricey 160,000 miles roundtrip for business class between the US and Australia (fortunately, they no longer add fuel surcharges in addition to miles), this is more or less the best Australia redemption out there. The only alternatives, much of the time and certainly during peak season, involve flying via Asia — often double the travel time.

And that’s really the only extent to which I’ve paid attention to them. (You can use Virgin America miles on Virgin Australia, of course, but you’ll pay fuel surcharges.)

I’ve almost never given their Velocity frequent flyer program a second look, except as a means for free Hilton Diamond status and Delta lounge access when they were offering status matches.

Except that now that they’ve become a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner (HT: YFare1A on Twitter) they’re miles are more easily obtained and they’re worth a second look.

In order to register for the Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer program, you have to list an address in one of the following countries. Some will find this limiting, others won’t.

Virgin Australia’s Frequent Flyer Partners

Virgin Australia partners with the other Virgin carriers, of course:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Samoa
  • Virgin America

They have an investment from Etihad, so they partner with:

  • Etihad Airways
  • airberlin

And then they have additional partners:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SilkAir (Singapore’s regional subsidiary that is not a member of Star Alliance)
  • Hawaiian Airlines

Virgin Australia’s Award Pricing

Virgin Australia offers one-way awards and pricing is distance-based. They offer awards for economy, premium economy, business class and first class (on Etihad only). Longer flights are more expensive, and business class is generally about double the cost of coach (premium cabins are pricey with this airline, while coach can be relatively cheap). And they add fuel surcharges in addition to taxes onto the cost of awards.

They have 3 different award charts.

  1. Singapore Airlines routes other than between Singapore and Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth is the most — and is exorbitantly — expensive.
  2. The chart for Singapore Airlines (other services), Air New Zealand (domestic and long haul), SilkAir, airberlin, and Hawaiian Airlines — that is just crazy expensive.
  3. And the chart for the Virgin Group carriers, Etihad, Delta, and Air New Zealand flights between New Zealand and Australia that’s where we can find the most reasonable pricing

We’ll focus on this last one, the award chart that has the lowest mileage cost.

Opportunities for Cheap Short-Haul Redemption

Virgin America coach flights under 600 mils are just 6900 points. For example, San Francisco – Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Portland; Los Angeles – Las Vegas and San Jose. US domestic flights don’t have fuel surcharges.

Similar short Delta routes out of their hubs will have similar pricing.

In some ways, this is an opportunity to book one-way domestic awards on Delta for cheap pricing the way we can use British Airways Avios to book one-way domestic awards on American or Alaska. The difference here, of course, is Delta’s availability tends to be less good.

Many of those flights, though, can be quite pricey on Delta — like the Delta Shuttle between Washington National and New York LaGuardia. That’s 6900 points one-way, when Delta charges 25,000 miles roundtrip (and doesn’t offer one-way awards).

UK domestic flights on Virgin’s Little Red are another opportunity, only London – Aberdeen is long enough to exceed the 372 mile limit for a 6900 point redemption. So London – Manchester and Edinburgh are 6900 points one-way.

Virgin Australia considers US domestic first class to be business class. They consider Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to be business class. In the Virgin Australia Velocity program, only Etihad offers first class.

It’s Even Cheaper Transferring Starpoints

If you want to transfer points into Virgin Australia from Starwood, remember that moving Starpoints into 20,000 miles gets a 5000 mile bonus. So 5520 Starpoints (provided you’re doing your transfers in 20,000 point blocks, no more than 60,000 Starpoints per day) is equivalent to 6900 Virgin Australia points.

Bottom-line: Where the Value Is

US Airways should be joining oneworld on March 31, and that should give me US Airways Shuttle flight redemptions for just 4500 British Airways Avios each way (although availability for this is quite limited). Otherwise I’d be looking very carefully, as a DC-based flyer, at Virgin Australia redemptions on Delta for my DC-New York flights.

Delta hub captives who make very short hops should certainly consider this, as well as some Virgin America folks on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, with premium cabin awards that are a multiple of coach, the high end of the chartgets expensive very quickly.

Update 10:10pm: I originally wrote the post discussing the award chart in miles, but changed it to kilometers prior to publishing. The chart is, indeed, pricing distances based on miles flown and not kilometers. That has been corrected and I’ve added a note about account address limitations.

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. If you don’t mind going to DPS before or after your stay in Australia, the price would decrease to 120k (140k after devaluation). This is a steal, and it’s pretty ease to price these type of itineraries online without having to deal with DL agents. LAX-SYD//MEL-DPS//DPS-SYD-LAX is an example.

  2. @Denny – that’s correct, and a common pricing error on the Delta site, an Australia stopover with Bali as the destination will bring down the price. Sometimes Delta pricing errors work in our favor 🙂

  3. I’ve corrected the distance issue, odd as it is they’re pricing based on miles flown and not kilometers. And I’ve added a note about having to register with an address in specific countries, which I had forgotten about (I am a member and am able to receive mail in Australia.)

  4. Tried to join online, website requires you to be a resident of Australia, New Zealand, or one of 9 other countries which are all S. Pacific islands. Workaround?

  5. I had listed Hilton Sydney as my address. But now they tried to send me the new Global Wallet card to that address, and emailed me asking me to update my address due to returned mail. Does anyone else have this problem? Is there a way to opt out of receiving mails altogether?

  6. I would happily let a US based member utilise my address in Australia for reciprocal rights to a US based address

  7. ” I’ve managed to get four business class awards on the Brisbane flight over Christmas”

    … but not 5, you failure 🙂

  8. Thanks for this infor. With the reduce in flight from CLE tto LGA using BA avios points, now I can look into using Virgin Aussie points for CLE-JFK on Delta with 6900 points.

    Denny, can you pls explain how to use 120k Virgin Aussis miles for flight from LAX to SYD/MEL by going to DPS. Appreciate if you could enlighten me on that. Thanks!

  9. Ket – You can route to DPS via Australia, and DPS is a cheaper region than Australia is. So if you make SYD a stopover on your way to DPS, the price decreases to 120K Skypesos.

  10. How do you book a domestic ticket using VA points? Once I select CVG as the city I’m leaving from, it only lets me choose cities in Australia. Do you have to call? Thanks for the info.

  11. @Gary, What @Andy said?? Is there a deval on Avios I didn’t know about? Insider info about avios on US vs AA?

  12. @Gary – how would you compare VA J vs QF J (on the A380) on the LAX-SYD/MEL runs? Is it worth the struggle to get the A380 flight?

  13. @Paul – I have only seen, not flown, those two products. I do not think I would ‘struggle’ to get Qantas over Virgin Australia. Now, I would struggle if I had the prospect of avoiding business class on Air Tahiti Nui or Fiji Airways for US-Australia but that’s a different story…

  14. Huh? Why limit membership to only a few countries? Very strange! Not that it’s very appealing for long flights given those crazy charts!

    @ Gary – what are best ways to fly US-New Zealand? I enjoy Air NZ safety videos but don’t recall reading about their premium product.

  15. @ Robbo – would be happy to assist with a US address in exchange for your Aussie address – please email me at dbielik at hotmail dot com.

  16. Before I start transferring over, does anyone (Gary?) have experience of actually booking these? Does award availability with VA match up what you can see on DL? It would be annoying to transfer valuable SPG points only to find nothing actually bookable. Also just to confirm this allows one way bookings?

  17. Unless I’m going blind, VA availability has all but vanished in business. A couple of weeks ago there was decent amount showing available on DL, but for over a week, nothing is showing on DL that I can see (and seems the same when searching on VA). So be careful.

  18. On what website is the booking of short haul flights using VA Miles done? VA.com doesn’t allow the option to book a OW in the US?

  19. As an Australian (in Melbourne), obviously this suits me well.

    Any hints for using this to exit Australia (in Business)
    Presumably Star Alliance partners best?

  20. @ Travel Summary

    Thanks for infor. I have tried delta award online from either CLE or LAX with SYD as a stop over to DPS but unable to find anything for 120k skypeso. 🙁

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