Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Devalues Delta Awards, But Not As Bad As Feared

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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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments
  1. This is an absolutely disgusting and awful devaluation. We are not talking about a marginal increase with recent change to the Aeroplan program, this is a complete destruction.

  2. Definitely not a result of numerous blogs telling people to sign up for credit cards, transfer points and then redeem for “sweet spots”

  3. Well crap. I had planned to use my points in VA last summer and covid happened. Now I’m sitting on 200k worth of points that are worth 1/2 as much as of today.

  4. This is absolutely horrible. Very sad, indeed. While I used up most of my miles, I still have some that I plan to use this Spring for domestic travel on Delta but now, it looks like these miles are now worthless.

  5. I will have 330K VS miles after my 3 AN F awards to Tokyo in March get cancelled or I’m unable to go due to border restrictions or slow vaccine rollout (cancellation seems inevitable at this point). I was hoping I could still use these miles to go to CDG a couple times in DL biz but not now! Maybe PE to London or biz to New Zealand.

    We need an updated VS Sweet Spots post pronto.

  6. @Bob, “Definitely not a result of numerous blogs telling people to sign up for credit cards, transfer points and then redeem for “sweet spots””

    Nonsense, but I understand some people’s need for a bogeyman when things they don’t like/understand happen.

  7. You’d hope airlines would stop taking advantage of the pandemic to devalue their programs… I woulda flown two DeltaOne awards this year if not for all the sh*t that happened. Now, I guess it’s a cheap revenue ticket at some point

  8. @Bob, as an European I keep on being surprised just how easy it is for Americans to earn points, flexibly transfer them to another program – let’s say Virgin Atlantic here – and then to redeem them.

    In almost the entire rest of the world, we are lucky to have 1 or maybe 2 co-sponsored airline credit cards available without such flexibility. Basically, we have to earn our frequent flyer miles the hard way — by actually flying the airline/alliance in question!

    I’m happy you guys have these amazing perks, and I understand there is some win-win situation for both card companies, airlines and passengers… but sometimes I’m really wondering how this is possible. Imagine if the rest of the world would have access to such points possibilities – there wouldn’t be any single award seat left.

  9. We had award tickets to Europe in March 2020. I’m also sitting on 200k worth of points that are worthless. Virgin and credit card partners should allow transfer back of miles given this devaluation. And the fees associated with rewards are outrageous.

  10. Greed is King at Delta and has always been I hate the airline and it’s horrible program
    Virgin has always been a dumpster fire and just having to call and book an award a nightmare with poor to no transparency
    I stopped earning in the program years ago.Let it implode
    I wouldn’t fly the airline or use their credit card so in the end they are shooting themselves in the foot

  11. I think that may be it for me. I have 800,000 Virgin miles and will probably just take the hit and transfer them to Hilton. With a young family, using them for flights is looking less and less likely.

  12. I find it amazing that airlines are devaluing their loyalty programs at a time when they need to get customers flying again. I hope the airlines of the people running these loyalty programs go out of business because of coronavirus.

  13. Lots of articles telling you to ‘buy’ airline points, and sign up for credit cards to get more airline points, then devaluations happen and people get mad that they traded in real cash for imaginary currency that is now worth less. Funny.

    You guys should just get real and use real money to buy premium flight fares… oh wait, real money also gets devaluations. Oh well, never mind.

  14. @Franz Christian: “I find it amazing that airlines are devaluing their loyalty programs at a time when they need to get customers flying again.”

    I also found this strange, but on reflection I realize that loyalty programs aren’t really loyalty programs anymore. If most of Virgin Atlantic’s award redemptions are by people transferring points from credit cards (and then buying a ticket on a different airline!), then few actually loyal Virgin customers will actually be dissuaded to fly Virgin by their devaluation.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the perks that can only be earned with loyalty (e.g., status) have been devalued over the last year.

  15. This one stings! I have a trip to Australia booked in August for 4 people. I used 75,000 Virgin miles for LAX-SYD Delta One. The worst part about this devaluation is ultimately when my flight gets cancelled, I will then have 300,000 miles stuck with Virgin. Before I would’ve been ok with it. Ughhhh

  16. SEA-ICN distance is 5216miles thus will result in 130k VS miles, are you trying to say SEA-NRT/HND?

  17. Horrible devaluation. I had to cancel my LAX-CDG flights due to covid. Now I have a bunch of useless points. Domestic redemptions suck too.

  18. Obviously the best scenario is to put your eggs in Chase, CITI or AMEX rewards if they have 2-3 options you can use. Allows for redirecting to another program when a program takes the wrong turn. Just accumulating in one program directly has it’s risks just as investing in just one stock or mutual fund has risks. Ben and his counterparts are not irresponsible in promoting cards with bonuses. The cards they promote have benefits that outweigh the AF. UA program may suck, but how is it not beneficial to sign up for a UA branded card with a nice bonus and waived first year AF and then later downgrading to a no AF UA branded card? For some with limited card pickup opportunities it may rank at the bottom of ones list, but still an opportunity with value. Ben has always stated that one must realize holding on to points risk devaluation and not to buy points speculatively without a purpose in mind.

  19. @Franz Christian

    Agreed

    @snic

    Sure, but remember that card companies (e.g. Amex, citi, etc) pay Flying Club for every mile transferred. So if people see less value in the program (which I definitely do with this devaluation) fewer people will transfer, meaning less money made by VS. That is especially bad at a time where virtually no one is flying, so this is one of the few ways VS can make money.

  20. My VA credit card has just had the annual fee applied. I was wondering what to do. Not any more. Bye bye card

  21. Chase is losing pretty much all their good options to devalues. If ANA is also devalued for virgin, Hyatt is really the last solid option.

  22. @Nano

    We are in the same boat. Booked two DL J tickets for March that already were canceled, and now we have 100K virgin miles that are severely devalued, especially as west coast based fliers.

  23. Any bets on ANA devaluation this year? 2021 is already off to a rough start and it’s only day one!

  24. Tough change

    For those seeking to fly Delta business class, look for the SkyMiles flash sales to fly these routes. However the sales are not predictable, so this is a loss.

  25. Wait a minute, Lucky

    Gary at VFTW is saying that JFK to LHR business class is 47.5K miles off peak, and 57.5K miles peak? I guess there is a different chart for UK flights. If so, that’s not a terrible outcome for DL flights to London (poor everywhere else though)

  26. Virgin Atlantic literally sent an email to all members 3 months ago when they were changing miles to points that said, “The value for redeeming your points with partners or for flights hasn’t changed.”

    To make this change to Delta awards is a massive breach of trust and once you lose that, you can never get it back.

    I already stopped earning with Delta after their no notice devaluation and will do the same now with Virgin.

  27. I think that the article should at least address that this isn’t a total devalue; many economy flights actually went down; especially domestic short haul. Delta can play games with dynamic pricing but it’s nice to have a fixed price for these short hops!

  28. I think Ben should acknowledge that he has been wrong about loyalty programs. His predictions about loyalty programs being a profit center that will compete with better value during and post-COVID has largely turned out to be wrong, with one devaluation after another.

    There have been maybe 1 or 2 miles sale that was marginally better than the historical best, but now they’ve normalized back to what they were pre-COVID.

    Hotels are the only ones who have been better than pre-COVID.

  29. @Jamie, you are right! I just reread that email stating they’re changing Virgin miles to Virgin points and how points will never expire and the new owners are Virgin Red Limited. Nowhere in that email stated of any devaluation but ah well. I’m a VS flyer and love Virgin but this sucks. Ah well.
    At the moment I just plan to use my VS miles to fly Virgin metal to the UK when it’s safe to do so.

  30. @Reaper, Sorry, but Bob is right. It’s not a need for a bogeyman; it’s fact and reality. More and more people are using and learning to use miles to redeem and take advantage of sweet spots. This is thanks to site’s like this one. We are all here for this, and all these sites and we are collectively responsible for this. The other option would be for none of this to exist and keeping all this a secret. OMAAT, TPG, etc., would not have a business and we wouldn’t be educated in the subject. It is what it is, and we just have to suck it up. We can milk this just for so long.

  31. Knowing Delta I doubt this will not happen but weirder things have happened…

    VS obviously offered great rates on D1 flights and now they’re not even worth considering (typically).

    Could Delta be about to improve Diamond or Platinum status with same day upgrades to international D1? Now that VS miles aren’t taking up all the award availability and I wouldn’t think that Delta will be selling the same number of award seats, could open the possibility. They need to do something to status to make it worthwhile following some of this year’s changes.

    Either that or we might see some cheap cash upgrades to fill the seats which could make an economy award ticket + cash upgrade viable.

  32. @ David — I have absolutely no problem admitting when I’m wrong, and it happens all the time. However, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel here. In the post that I believe you’re referencing, I wrote that “some programs will counter the trend and devalue.” You suggest that we’re seeing “one devaluation after another.”

    It’s possible I’m missing something, but I believe we’ve seen just two Delta devaluations? One from SkyMiles directly, and one for Delta redemptions through Virgin Atlantic, which are no doubt related? This is exactly what I would have expected. Are there a bunch of other devaluations I’m missing?

    Next, my prediction was about post-COVID. I don’t think we’re post-COVID yet.

    We have, however, seen all kinds of positive changes to frequent flyer programs. AAdvantage has completely eliminated award ticket change and redeposit fees (and other programs have made similarly positive changes), Qatar Airways Privilege Club rolled back devaluations from the past and is a competitive program once again, tons of programs have made it easier than ever before to earn status, AAdvantage has introduced Choice Benefits for elite members that are much better than the old program, Marriott has sold discounted gift cards on several occasions, World of Hyatt has offered discounted redemptions and free parking for months, etc.

    A couple of years from now we can revisit this, and if I was wrong I’ll absolutely admit it. But asking me to admit I was wrong about my post-COVID predictions when we’re not even post-COVID seems a bit premature. 😉

    I appreciate you keeping me honest, though!

  33. I have 300k Flying Club miles from 3 roundtrip tickets I had to cancel, so I’ve been looking for Delta One awards for about 2 months. There was almost zero availability to Europe for the whole 2021 in DL metal. Only a few KLM flights made sense, but those were with dates few and far between. At least in a week or 2 we will start seeing something available.

  34. @David

    Fair enough. I consider the Aeroplan changes a minor devaluation, and I guess the devaluations all coming in relatively recently made me think there were more than there was.

    And if those predictions are for post-COVID, I hope you are right infinitely more!

  35. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this leaves Korean Air Lines as the only Skyteam airline with a decent award chart for Delta and Skyteam flights. Is that right?

  36. VS have confirmed to Head for Points that the VS website is incorrect

    https://www.headforpoints.com/2021/01/03/virgin-points-on-delta-not-going-up/

    Does not apply to point to point flights covered by the TATL joint venture (though there could be some changes to points needed for DL flights)

    If you add an internal US connection then the new pricing does apply to the entire trip.

    Does apply to DL internal flights and non JV flights “that don’t cross the Atlantic

    (Note that Head for Points is UK based so is written it’s a UK readership and travel patterns in mind).

  37. WAIT…

    Other miles sites are reporting that Virgin Atlantic Press Office have contacted them to say the new chart is wrong and will be corrected in coming days.

  38. Apparently the new chart is wrong and does not apply to DL flights operated under the Delta/Virgin/Air France/KLM JV which is likely all flights between the US and UK & Europe.

    But the new chart is likely correct for DL domestic flights and DL flights between the US and other regions (ex Europe).

    Apparently will be corrected in coming days. But no mention whether US-U.K. & Europe will still be the old chart or if there will still be an amended chart that is not quite as bad.

  39. Help me out here. There was a loophole of sorts where you could redeem earn fewer miles on carrier “A” then redeem them on carrier “B” for a higher product at less codts than it would normally require, right? VS has to reimburse DL for the tickets, they realised they were bleeding on this deal, fixed the problem, and you guys are whining and blaming Delta? Do I have that right?

  40. @KMSP
    I do not consider it a loophole, it is like two stores selling an item and have different prices.
    I moved many miles to VS specifically to fly to Rome from a US City. I had the expectation that those miles could be used one day. I wish I had never moved those AMEX points.
    VS was not losing on the deal but DL was upset at being undersold. When DL tool control this was their first action.

  41. The new rates may not apply to flights to Europe, but taxes on Europe flights will be super high. So you can fly J to Europe, but you’ll be paying $600 to $800 RT on taxes.

    Will there be any sweet spots left (beyond ANA) on VS points?

  42. Such a waste to put all my non-bonus expenses on the VA card for the past 2 years. I have almost 200k miles that I planned to use to fly to Europe. Lesson learned. In future only a transferable points card will get my non-bonused $$$.

  43. When you realize this has ‘Delta’ written all over it, what else do you expect? Waiting to see when DL will transform LATAM Pass into another dumpster…

  44. Same as many others. Had round trip business class on Delta into and out of Milan in Feb and March of 2020. Booked using Virgin Points. Took 6 months to get the points back post pandemic. And now they are worth maybe 35%. Awful

  45. A positive change are West Coast redemptions to Hawaii for 15,000 points, even less when there is a Citi or Amex transfer bonus to VS.

  46. How does one even try to find the Delta flights to Europe using VA points? It used to be easy using the calendar view which showed business class at 50,000 and the cost at only $5.60.

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