now displaying Virgin Australia award space (and some other observations)

As reported by Gary, Delta has added the functionality of searching for Virgin Australia award space to their website. Now if you use the award tool and there’s Virgin Australia award space, it will automatically show up when doing a search.

When the partnership between Delta and Virgin Australia was initially announced I was really excited, since previously it was nearly impossible to redeem Delta SkyMiles for travel to Australia.

The fact that they’ve added the functionality to search online is awesome, since you used to have to call Delta’s SkyMiles desk to make a reservation for travel on Virgin Australia, and they’re among the most clueless agents in the airline industry (half of them had no clue who Virgin Australia is, the other half hung up on me, thinking I was asking if they were a virgin… oy).

And at the time Virgin Australia wasn’t just an average partner, but actually had an unreal amount of award space. While other airlines were stingy with award space to Australia, Virgin Australia released several business class award seats on most flights, even during peak season. The downside was that there were fuel surcharges, though at the time they were maybe $500 roundtrip. It wasn’t cheap, but at the same time was still an incredible bargain for award travel to Australia.

While coach award space is still quite good, the bad news is that business class award space has more or less dried up over the past several months. We went from seeing award availability almost every day to seeing award availability in business class a few days a year. So in many ways the partnership has become a lot less valuable.

The other bad news is that fuel surcharges have gone up even higher. A roundtrip coach award ticket will cost you around $800, while business class will cost you over $900. While it might still be a good deal in business class in many circumstances, I find it really hard to justify in coach, especially in addition to 100,000 Delta SkyMiles for the roundtrip.

But here’s the really interesting part. Delta imposes fuel surcharges for Virgin Australia award redemptions originating in the US, but not for Virgin Australia award redemptions originating in Australia.

A roundtrip coach award ticket from Los Angeles to Sydney on Virgin Australia will run you $799.50:

While a roundtrip coach award ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles on Virgin Australia will run you $119.50:

So yeah, you pay an extra $680 for the privilege of originating in the US. There’s no doubt that US consumers have had a hard time adopting to fuel surcharges imposed by some airlines (British Airways, for example, as they try to enter the US market more with their credit card), though this is the first time I’ve seen US consumers subject to more fuel surcharges than consumers in other countries.

Anyway, it seems that while the booking process has gotten easier than ever before, the availability is worse than ever before. Oh, how I long for the old days in this instance…

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. do you know which airline has coach awards to australia with the lowest taxes and fuel surcharges?

  2. oooh, it’s only $196 if you start in canada instead. i’d happily spend 9k avois to get to yyz and save $600. that’s a value of 6.5Ā¢ per mile!

  3. Probably the only time that this is the reverse.. Gotta balance for when your revenue fares start at about $1000 r/trip and we have to often pay double that!

  4. @emily- On Delta for 100k miles and $119.50, you can fly coach non-stop between LAX and SYD.

  5. I’m seeing availability on VA in business in late August. Is this phantom availability??

  6. Ben- Why has Virgin Aus bus class availability between the U.S. and Australia suddenly dried up? I thought this was one of the easiest awards to get? I bought a ton of Delta miles using that transfer miles promotion with a 100% bonus (working out to 1.1 cents per mile)in the hopes of booking on Virgin Aus in bus class to Australia! I now have 450,000 Skypesos!

  7. @John- Hope the availability opens back up so you can fly Virgin Australia. However if all else fails and you must fly Delta, the seat on their 777-200LR, isn’t bad imo. It’s definitely better than flying anyone’s coach, and it is a fully flat seat, so no sliding down to the bottom. :-p

  8. @ emily — Both United and Qantas have decent award availability in coach without fuel surcharges if booking through United and American, respectively. And VERY nice find!

    @ JohnnieD — If you see it that’s great, it’s probably not phantom availability. There’s definitely some space out there, just not a whole lot.

    @ John — Well I think they realized they were being too generous with award space, and that they could make more money exploring other revenue management techniques.

  9. What hope does a Canadian have of finding space down to LAX on Delta at the low level though? šŸ™‚

  10. @lucky, I thought Delta charges a foreign origination fee of $250 when you DL award itinerary begins outside the U.S. In your screenshot, it does seem to be the case.

  11. @ Mike — They impose fuel surcharges for all redemptions originating in Europe, but other than that just impose fuel surcharges for some non-SkyTeam partner airlines. Where do you see the foreign origination fee reflected?

  12. @ Jm — I’m not really seeing any space through Virgin Australia’s website either…

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