Via NotiFlyer, Virgin Atlantic is running a “two for one sale” on economy award redemptions (must be logged into your account to access the details).
The offer is valid for travel through May 31, 2012, although their Vancouver route will allow discounted redemptions through October 27 and Cancun through July 3.
Sample prices: JFK-London is available for 29,500 miles roundtrip, San Francisco-London is available for 47,500 miles roundtrip.
The rub? Virgin adds fuel surcharges onto the cost of awards, which means that you’ll pay over $500 in cash as part of the redemption.
That’s why it’s almost never worthwhile redeeming economy award tickets with mileage programs that hit their members with fuel surcharges. You still wind up paying much of the cost of a paid ticket, while spending miles rather than earning them. You don’t get all that much for the miles. (A couple of weeks ago I explained fuel surcharges on award tickets in some detail.)
An award sale like this at least improves the math, if not making it worthwhile from my own perspective. I’d still save up miles for a business class award, Virgin’s product is quite nice (at least seat and lounges, if not food). And then it doesn’t feel quite as rough paying $500+ in cash for your “free” seat.
Unfortunately you pay more in taxes for a business class flight than for an economy flight, so if it is $500 for economy, it will be more for business. In addition, UK air taxes (APD) will increase in April, making these ‘free’ flights even more expensive.
That said, I still collect their miles. Virgin have a great premium economy product (I think they ‘invented’ the class). I use my miles for this class. I end up paying around the same cost as an economy seat with another airline for a premium seat with Virgin, which I think is still a good deal. Not free, but a good deal.