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The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club frequent flyer program lets members use their Virgin Points to book flights on Delta Air Lines. For years, these award bookings have offered some amazing sweet spots, which included flights from the U.S. to Europe in business class for 50,000 points each way, and long economy flights, like from Atlanta to Anchorage, for 12,500 points each way.
But in early 2021, Virgin made some big changes to its chart for booking award flights on Delta — changes that are a mixed bag of good news and some very bad news. Some of the more notable effects, which are covered in detail below, include:
Nonstop economy flights under 1,500 miles in distance will cost fewer points.
Domestic economy flights more than 2,000 miles in distance will cost more points.
Almost all domestic first-class flights will cost more.
Award flights to the United Kingdom may tack on hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees.
Business class awards to Asia, Africa and South America cost up to 188% more points.
Here’s a closer look at the good, the bad and the very bad changes to Virgin Atlantic’s Delta award chart.
» Learn more: How to redeem Virgin Atlantic points step by step
Under the old system, the number of Virgin Points needed to book a flight was based on the region you were flying from and the region you were flying to. The new system bases the price largely on the number of physical miles you fly, meaning very short flights are often much cheaper.
Cheap nonstop domestic economy awards
Under Virgin’s previous Delta award chart, all nonstop Delta domestic U.S. flights cost 12,500 points each way. Using the new distance-based award chart, Delta economy awards on nonstop flights will cost as little as 7,500 points each way:
This 7,500-point rate applies only to nonstop flights up to 500 miles. Flights from 501 to 1,000 physical miles in distance will cost a little more at 8,500 points.
Although that may not sound very far, this includes international flights, such as Atlanta to Cancun, for 8,500 points.
This new Virgin award pricing can still provide savings over what Delta charges for the same award flights. The Atlanta to Cancun flight on Delta costs 11,000 SkyMiles one way.
Virgin’s award pricing is for nonstop Delta flights only. If you have to connect to another Delta flight to get to your destination, each segment is priced individually. So you’ll probably want to book multi-leg award flights through another program — such as Delta SkyMiles.
» Learn more: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program: The complete guide
Business class awards to Europe remain
One of our favorite cheap business class awards to Europe is booking Delta business class, which the airline calls its Delta One class, using Virgin Points. After some confusion with the rollout of Virgin’s new chart, many of the best sweet spot business class flights to Europe are still available.
That means you can still book a business class award on a nonstop Delta flight to Europe for 50,000 points each way. That’s assuming you can find availability (and that’s a big if). Still, it’s hard to beat such an incredible award sweet spot.
What if you want to fly Delta to the U.K. in business class? Well, there’s a separate award chart just for that. Award pricing starts at 47,500 points each way during off-peak dates.
But Virgin tacks on some significant taxes and fees on these U.K. awards. For example, this one-way flight from London-Heathrow back to Minneapolis-St. Paul requires almost $500 in taxes and fees.
The very bad
Overall, the changes to Virgin’s chart for Delta awards are clearly a devaluation. Certain domestic awards and business class to Asia, Africa and South America now cost much, much more.
Increases to some Delta domestic award flights
Economy award flights over 2,000 miles in distance now cost more. Also, almost all domestic first-class awards are more expensive.
For example, under the old system, you could fly Atlanta to Anchorage for 12,500 points each way in economy or 22,500 points each way in business class. These flights will now cost 22,500 points each way in economy and a whopping 80,000 points each way in business class. That’s more than 3 1/2 times the previous business class award price.
Delta business class awards to Asia, Africa and South America
Asia awards can cost up to 175% more points. Before the change, travelers could book nonstop Delta business class awards to Asia for just 60,000 Virgin Points each way. With the new distance-based award chart, Delta business class awards to Asia now cost 105,000 to 165,000 points each way. That’s an increase of up to 175%, which erases the value of using Virgin Points for business class awards to Asia.
Africa awards can cost up to 175% more points. Delta flies to five cities:
Cape Town, South Africa.
Johannesburg, South Africa.
Under the old region-based award chart, business class award flights to any of these cost 60,000 points each way. Now, the award price ranges from 80,000 to 165,000 points. That’s another up to 175% increase in the business class award price.
South America awards can cost up to 188% more points. No long-haul flights were spared in this devaluation. Delta’s business class flights to South America also sharply increased. Business class award flights from the U.S. to any South American destination used to cost 45,000 points each way.
After the award chart change, most business class awards to southern South America have increased to 105,000 points each way. But search for a flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires and the rate is 130,000 points. That’s an increase of 188% on this route.
How to get Virgin Points
If you’re looking to book the new domestic sweet spots or a business class award to Europe, the good news is that it’s incredibly easy to get Virgin Points. Besides flying the airline or using its credit card, you can transfer points from four of the five major transferable point currencies.
Plus, you can top off your Virgin Atlantic account with point transfers from several other hotel programs:
The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® lets you rack up Virgin Points by making charges to the card, and right now new cardmembers can qualify for a welcome bonus. For a limited time: 60,000 bonus Virgin Points after spending $2,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. There’s a $90 annual fee.
The bottom line
Overall, Virgin’s no-notice change to its Delta award chart is disappointing. Sweet spots like business class awards to Asia for just 60,000 points were spectacular for travelers who booked before the change.
And it’s hard to swallow a 175% increase to some award prices overnight. Consider this a harsh reminder not to delay taking advantage of excellent sweet spots when you find them.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card