Redeeming Virgin Velocity points for Business class flights to the United States used to be fairly simple. But in recent times, securing a reward seat has become a real challenge.
All Velocity members can redeem points for Business reward seats. Velocity Gold and Platinum members can also request a points upgrade to Business class, provided they have purchased a flexible “Economy Freedom” or Premium Economy ticket. The difficulty with both of these methods, however, is a sheer lack of award seat availability. Virgin now releases very few award seats in Business (or Premium Economy), and the few that are released are generally snapped up 11 months in advance. As upgrades are also subject to reward seats being available, this can be a problem.
The upgrade option comes out of the reward seat pool ( at least if you want to guarantee yourself the seat ). You can buy 2 x freedom tix and upgrade both. I have done this providing both tickets are on the same PNR. You should always check on the phone before purchase. Either way you would deal with the same availability issue. If you are flexible you should have no problem with 2 reward seats.
Fortunately for those trying their luck with a points upgrade, Virgin does sometimes release additional reward seats a few days before the flight. So there is a chance for upgrade requests to be successful, provided that the upgrade cabin is not completely full.
While upgrading with points can be good value, it’s often not much more expensive to purchase Business class tickets outright. The cost of these tickets can also be subsidised by taking advantage of the discounts that come with certain credit cards…
If you happen to have an AMEX VA platinum card – use the offer of a discounted 2 for 1 business fare? I think it’s not much cheaper but may be an option
If you’re prepared to pay for a Business class fare, one member suggests flying Virgin’s partner Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian offers very competitive fares to mainland USA via Hawaii and a solid product.
Depending on any number of preferences, not that least where you want to enter the US and whether you wanted to pay outright, you can fly with HA’s lie-flat business bed from SYD-HNL-JFK-HNL-SYD with stopovers for $AU5,500 (the HNL-JFK sectors convert to the new lie-flat beds mid-Feb). Not to mention a Velocity earn of 560 SCs and about 30,000 pts each for the journey if my maths is correct.
Another recommendation is to book an award seat using Velocity points on Singapore Airlines. Travelling via Singapore does add to the overall travel time, but Singapore Airlines offers much better award availability than Virgin Australia. By transferring your Velocity points to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program you can also gain access to direct trans-Pacific award seats on other Star Alliance airlines, including United and Air Canada Business Class. United award availability to Australia is not too bad.
Travelling to the USA on points can be challenging, but it’s not out of reach with a little research and persistence.
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