Virgin Atlantic Flying Club kicked off 2021 with an unannounced award chart devaluation. Specifically, Flying Club significantly changed award pricing for travel on Delta, which was previously one of the best award chart sweet spots.
Well, there’s some good news, per an update today — while there’s still an award chart devaluation, it’s not as bad as initially feared. Fortunately award pricing between the US and Europe is remaining unchanged, so let’s go over what exactly is changing.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award costs on Delta
With Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s updated devaluation, Delta awards fall into one of two categories:
- There’s region based award pricing between the US and Europe
- There’s distance based award pricing for travel within and between all other regions
Flying Club awards on Delta between the US & Europe
Flying Club’s award pricing for travel on Delta isn’t changing between the US and Europe. All Delta awards between the US and UK follow this one-way award chart, which mirrors pricing on Virgin Atlantic:
Meanwhile all nonstop flights between the US and Europe (with the exception of the UK) on Delta will continue to cost the following one-way:
- 30,000 Flying Club miles in Main Cabin (economy class)
- 50,000 Flying Club miles in Delta One (business class)
This is at least a silver lining in this devaluation, because this will continue to be an incredible sweet spot.
Carrier imposed surcharges (often referred to as fuel surcharges) for Flying Club awards on Delta will also remain unchanged:
- There are fuel surcharges for travel on Delta between the US and UK
- There are fuel surcharges for travel on Delta between Europe and the US when originating in Europe
- There aren’t fuel surcharges for travel on Delta between the US and Europe (with the exception of the UK) when originating in the US
In other words, the real sweet spot here continues to be Delta awards originating in the US to points in Europe other than the UK (like Atlanta to Frankfurt, Los Angeles to Paris, Detroit to Amsterdam, etc.).
US to Europe Flying Club awards on Delta will continue to be a good value
All other Flying Club awards on Delta
All other Virgin Atlantic Flying Club awards on Delta will follow a new distance based award chart. Here’s a look at one-way redemption rates:
The real sweet spot has always been long haul business class. For context, Flying Club used to charge:
- 60,000 miles for one-way Delta business class awards from the US to Asia and Africa
- 75,000 miles for one-way Delta business class awards from the US to Australia
In other words:
- One-way Delta business class awards from Seattle to Seoul are increasing in cost from 60,000 miles to 130,000 miles (~167% increase)
- One-way Delta business class awards from Atlanta to Tokyo are increasing in cost from 60,000 miles to 165,000 miles (175% increase)
- One-way Delta business class awards from Atlanta to Johannesburg are increasing in cost from 60,000 miles to 165,000 miles (175% increase)
- One-way Delta business class awards from Los Angeles to Sydney are increasing in cost from 75,000 miles to 165,000 miles (120% increase)
As you can see, this devaluation is awful for long haul premium cabin awards. With the exception of flights between the US and Europe, award prices are increasing by 120% to 175%, which is brutal. These have gone from incredible sweet spots, to not even worth considering anymore.
Delta business class awards have increased in cost by up to 175%
The only real positive change here is that short haul awards on Delta have become more reasonably priced. Previously the cheapest domestic US awards priced at 12,500 miles, while now they start as low as 7,500 miles.
This devaluation is disappointing, not surprising
There are ultimately lots of mileage arbitrage opportunities out there, where you’ll get better value earning or redeeming miles with a partner program, rather than with the program of the airline you’re traveling with directly.
Over time we see many of these opportunities devalued, though not always. In the case of Delta and Virgin Atlantic, I’m not surprised to see this change:
- Delta owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, the two airlines have a joint venture, and Delta is also known to be a rather controlling partner
- Delta is determined to turn SkyMiles into as much of a revenue based program as possible, and that includes eliminating outsized value for premium cabin redemptions
- I find it disappointing that absolutely no advance notice was given, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Delta pressured Virgin Atlantic into that
If anything, I’m pleasantly surprised that award rates between the US and Europe are being maintained, and that’s a win compared to what we were initially expecting.
Nonetheless this is still a huge loss for consumers:
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with major transferable points currencies, while Delta SkyMiles only partners with Amex Membership Rewards
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club was more or less the only program through which Delta business class redemptions to Africa, Asia, and Australia, were a good value; there’s not another program with good redemption rates and limited or no carrier imposed surcharges on Delta
- While Delta business class is hardly my favorite business class product in the world, this was often a practical option for flying to major gateways in Asia, as award availability was often quite good
There aren’t many good ways to redeem miles on Delta
I had the chance to speak with Flying Club leadership about these changes, and they regretted the execution of them. It sounds like the changes were accidentally uploaded earlier than intended, and since the world is in lockdown, they then took their time to roll out the changes correctly, when the technology had caught up with the changes.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has devalued Delta awards significantly. There’s a new distance award chart for all regions except between the US and Europe, and we’re seeing price increases of up to 175%.
This is going from one of the best award values out there, to something not even worth considering. On the plus side, Flying Club isn’t adjusting award costs between the US and Europe, so there’s still an opportunity to redeem 50,000 Flying Club miles for Delta business class between the US and Europe.
My favorite Flying Club award redemption continues to be redeeming for travel on All Nippon Airways, and that value remains unchanged.
What do you make of these Virgin Atlantic Flying Club changes?