Using Citi ThankYou Points on Virgin Atlantic to Fly Delta and on JetBlue to Get to Cuba

Using Citi ThankYou Points on Virgin Atlantic to Fly Delta and on JetBlue to Get to Cuba

Virgin Atlantic can be a fantastic airline to transfer your Citi ThankYou points to. The airline has 10 redemption partners of its own, so finding a good value is not an issue. You just need to be strategic and do your homework before transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Transfers are usually instantaneous, and you can even transfer your points while on the phone with an agent.

Best of Virgin Atlantic

Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book flights on Delta

Delta is one of the two Virgin Atlantic major U.S. partners (the other one is Hawaiian Airlines), and the Virgin Atlantic chart for Delta is not bad at all. Besides, there are no fuel surcharges for flights originating from the U.S.

You can fly to Europe in business for 100,000 miles per round trip. Delta’s own level is 125,000 miles (140,000 miles from 01.01.17).

You can fly to South America (including southern South America) for 45,000 miles in economy and 90,000 miles in business per round trip. Delta’s own levels are 60,000 and 150,000 miles respectively.

You can fly to South Africa for 120,000 miles in business per round trip. Delta’s own level is 190,000 miles.

You can fly to Asia for 120,000 miles in business per round trip. Delta’s own level is 160,000 miles.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book first class ANA flights

One of the least-known Virgin Atlantic secrets is that Flying Club miles let you book a first class ticket on ANA between the U.S. and Tokyo for as little as 110,000 – 120,000 miles. That’s for a round-trip flight with no fuel surcharges. This is probably the best first class deal to Asia, as the same flight costs 150,000-165,000 miles in ANA’s own Mileage Club program.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book first class ticket to Tokyo on ANA flights

Transfer your ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic to book a premium economy flight between the U.S. Northeast and London

Flying Club miles are good for many things, but using them on a Virgin Atlantic transatlantic or transpacific flight is not usually one of them. While the program has a few sweet spots, it also has huge fuel surcharges, and with so many alternatives, you might not want to bother. However, if you have a surplus of Virgin Atlantic miles, there are some redemptions you might consider despite a sizable cash outlay.

Virgin Atlantic has drastically devalued its Flying Club program, having made most flights more expensive in miles than they used to be.

However, in some areas, the program has improved. For example, you can sometimes fly between the Northeast and London for 20,000 miles in economy and 35,000 miles in premium economy per round trip.

The reason I said “sometimes” is that Virgin Atlantic has introduced a new seasonal chart, and these levels are only good for off-peak travel.

These rates used to be 35,000 and 55,000 respectively, so these changes are good if you’re OK with the seasonal restrictions.

Virgin Atlantic seasonal chart
Virgin Atlantic has introduced a seasonal chart

As you can see, the levels above work for the following off-peak periods:

  • January – March
  • Mid-April – mid-May
  • September – November

This is an especially good deal for premium economy even though you’ll end up paying about $700 for taxes and surcharge. Virgin Atlantic premium economy is one of the best products in the industry with a very comfortable seat and really good food and service. It really can be a solid alternative to a much more expensive business class award ticket (95,000 miles and over $1,100).

Keep in mind that flying from other U.S regions is more expensive in both miles and cash.

The worst of Virgin Atlantic

  • Don’t transfer your ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic in order to fly in a Virgin Atlantic business class cabin or you’ll pay a lot in miles and fuel surcharges.
  • Don’t redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Air China or Malaysia due to huge fuel surcharges.
  • There are also some Virgin Atlantic booking issues.

The common complaint from travelers is how hard it can be to book a partner’s award with Virgin Atlantic miles.

You can’t redeem an award on Virgin Atlantic partners online, so you have to call Flying Club. That doesn’t sound too bad, but unfortunately Virgin Atlantic agents may have a hard time finding a partner’s award seat for you. Be ready to hang up and call again when you encounter an agent who doesn’t know how to find award space or how to issue your ticket. You may even try to call some overseas Virgin Atlantic offices like the one in Hong Kong, as it has been reported to be the place where you can find some better-trained agents.

Transfer ThankYou points to JetBlue to book a flight to Cuba

We wouldn’t normally recommend transferring points to a revenue-based program. In revenue-based programs, redemption rates are tied to revenue fares, which means there aren’t many sweet spots where you can get an outsized value. However, JetBlue is a little different, and there is one spot where it shines right now – Cuba.

You can transfer ThankYou points to the JetBlue TrueBlue program at a 1,000:800 ratio.

JetBlue currently flies to four Cuban cities: Havana, Santa Clara, Holguin, and Camagüey. These flights are already cheap, but using JetBlue points makes them even cheaper.

For example, a flight between New York and Havana (just (launched on November 28), goes for as low as $204 per round trip.

jet-blue-jfk-hav-cash
New York to Havana is a hot ticket

But it only costs 7,000 TrueBlue points and $47 in taxes.

jet-blue-jfk-hav-points
Cost in Trueblue points

Booking a ticket for TrueBlue points gives you a value of 2.25 pennies per point (we have to deduct the tax, because the cash price includes it). This is a fantastic value for a revenue-based program.

Since you can transfer your ThankYou Points to JetBlue at a 1,000:800 ratio, you will end up spending 9,000 ThankYou points for this roundtrip ticket. That brings the value of your ThankYou points to 1.7 cents per point, which is decent but not spectacular.

However, if you live close to Miami/Fort Lauderdale, you can get a much better deal flying to Havana. We have found fares as cheap as $140 with a corresponding redemption of 2,100 TrueBlue points and $47 in taxes. To get 2,100 TrueBlue points, you’ll need to transfer 3,000 ThankYou points to the program, so after deducting the taxes, your value would be 4.4 cents per TrueBlue point, or 3.1 cents per ThankYou point. This is probably the best value for economy class airfare you can hope for.

Please note that the rates above are valid at the time of writing. In revenue-based airline programs, redemption levels always fluctuate.

Worst of JetBlue

Avoid transferring ThankYou points to the JetBlue program to redeem them in Mint. While Mint is one of the best first class domestic products, the value of your ThankYou points will be mediocre at best. You often get a much better value redeeming points on cheap flights, although it’s not always the case.

In any case, if you want to use your ThankYou points to fly to Cuba, JetBlue is the easiest and the most economical way. You can’t book Cuba at the Citi Travel Center yet. You could transfer your ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic to book your flight on Delta, but that would cost you 35,000 points per round trip — four times the cost of transferring points to JetBlue.

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