Massive Virgin Atlantic Delta Chart Devaluation
Well, it looks like we’re starting off 2021 with some of the worst award travel changes I’ve seen in a long time. One of the excellent ways to book nonstop Delta tickets has been through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, especially for business class flights from the U.S. to either Asia or Europe. But it’s now the first casualty of 2021, thanks to the Virgin Atlantic Delta chart devaluation that we’re seeing today.
New Virgin Atlantic Delta Award Chart
Virgin Atlantic has previously used a typical zone-based award chart for booking partner awards on Delta Airlines. This looks like it has been completely scrapped for a new distance-based award chart. Here is the new Virgin Atlantic Delta chart we’re seeing:
The thing that gets me is that even with the new distance-based Virgin Atlantic Delta chart, things are still priced on the per sector basis. This means that an award from SFO-ATL-FCO would cost a ridiculous 157,500 Virgin Atlantic miles one-way for a first/business ticket. Contrast this with the 72,500 miles this award cost under the region-based chart for two sectors. The ATL-FCO nonstop used to cost just 50,000 miles.
I was initially confused by the note: “All mileage is for a return ticket excluding passenger taxes, duties, fee, charges and surcharges.” This gave me some hope that the pricing was for a return ticket, but based on the one-way mileage. This would make it not much of devaluation compared to the old chart.
But alas, that is not the case. I searched SEA-LAX in first class, and the round-trip ticket costs 55,000 miles(!). This is 2x the 27,500 one-way price in the new chart.
Here is a comparison of some nonstop business class Delta award pricing:
- Detroit (DTW) -> Amsterdam (AMS) – Old: 50,000 miles, New: 80,000 miles
- San Francisco (SFO) -> New York (JFK) – Old: 22,500 miles, New: 52,500 miles
- Atlanta (ATL) -> Rome (FCO) – Old: 50,000 miles, New: 130,000 miles
- Seattle (SEA) -> Tokyo (NRT) – Old: 60,000 miles, New: 105,000 miles
- Los Angeles (LAX) -> Shanghai (PVG) – Old: 60,000 miles, New: 165,000 miles
At the worst end of the spectrum, we’re seeing a massive 175% increase for long-haul business class awards. Ugh.
What About Flights to the UK?
Another oddity is that there are still separate charts for Delta flights to/from the UK. The rates for these are much better. However, you’ll also pay massive fuel surcharges on Delta tickets to/from the UK, so this really impacts the usefulness of this deal. It’s often just as cheap to book an economy ticket for cash.
I tried to search several routes on Virgin’s website and struggled to pull up Delta award inventory for long-haul flights. They may still be in the process of rolling out the updates for the distance-based pricing scheme.
Is There Any Value Left?
The Virgin Atlantic Delta chart devaluation has all but destroyed the wonderful business class sweet spots we previously enjoyed. There may be a few routes in the 3,000-4,000 mile range where paying 80,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for business class might be comparable to what Delta charges for their own tickets. Given the transfer bonuses we’re seen to Virgin, this may still be worth pursuing.
However, many of the other long-haul business options are all but dead. There is no way I would pay 165,000 Virgin miles for a LAX-PVG ticket when Delta is charging fewer than that for the same flight.
Where the new chart still holds value is for nonstop economy flights. In some cases, you’ll now get better value with cheaper short-haul pricing. Everything within the U.S. used to be 12,500 one-way. It didn’t matter if you were flying SFO-LAX or BOS-SEA. Everything was the same. Now you’ll pay either much less or a bit more, depending on the distance flown. There is still value here, but it could be meager, considering Delta’s pricing for their own flights is pretty similar for low-demand days.
Bottom line: this is ugly. Really ugly. If you are a Delta hub captive and loved using Virgin Atlantic for cheap business class awards, I feel for you. I didn’t think 2021 would start on such a sour note, but here we are. Hopefully the Virgin Atlantic Delta chart devaluation isn’t the start of a string of airlines that decide to do the same.
H/T: Thrifty Traveler