Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Redeeming Virgin America Elevate Points For Virgin Australia Domestic Flights

I have been planning an Australia trip for fall of this year, and while British Airways Avios have been a huge help with booking domestic flights on Qantas, I've noticed that Qantas doesn't fly every single route in the country. And even when they do, schedules may be limited. Another downside is that you cannot use Avios to book flights on Jetstar, even though it is a subsidiary of Qantas.

That's when I began looking into redeeming some of my Virgin America Elevate points for flights on domestic Virgin Australia routes. One good thing about the Virgin Australia website is that it allows you to search for award seats even if you are not a member of their Velocity frequent flyer program. The search is quick and simple, and can be done directly from the home page.

If award seats are available, they will show up on the next screen, along with the number of Velocity points required. I was specifically looking for the flight from Brisbane (BNE) to Whitsunday Coast (PPP) since Qantas doesn't fly that route. Fortunately, availability appeared to be pretty good in economy.

Once I was sure award seats were available, I went to the handy Virgin America partner page, which details information specifically for Virgin Australia award redemptions. There, you can search for the route you want to redeem for, and the number of Elevate points required along with the estimated taxes will be displayed. It does not, however, display actual award seat availability.

I was happy that only 3,000 Elevate points were required. Purchasing the flight outright costs about $128 USD, and doesn't even include a checked bag, while the award option appears to include one checked bag up to 23 kg as long as you are a Velocity member. I followed the instructions on the page and called Virgin America at 1-877-359-8474 to book the flight.

Unfortunately, the first agent I got didn't seem to understand that I wanted to redeem my Elevate points for a domestic Virgin Australia flight. She attempted to talk to a supervisor, but still seemed confused. I decided to hang up and call again. The second agent knew exactly what she was doing, and transferred me immediately to the redemption desk. The friendly lady there did a quick search and told me she saw the available award seats I wanted. Taxes and fees came out to a very reasonable $27.60. The final redemption rate for this flight was approximately 3.3 cents per point, which is very good for the Elevate program.

The catch, however, was that it would take 24 hours just to send in the award request to Virgin Australia. Then, it would take up to a week for them to respond with the final confirmation. Once that happens, Virgin America would then call me to give me the confirmation number. I found the process to be a little tedious, but requiring only a little more patience than usual. Just shy of one week later, I received both an email and a call from Virgin America telling me that my award had been confirmed and everything was set.

Since I was slightly curious about the redemption rates using Elevate points on Virgin Australia, I decided to make a small chart listing the number of points required for many domestic destinations departing from Sydney, as well as a few international ones. Keep in mind that some international destinations such as Los Angeles have ridiculous fuel surcharges upwards of $700-$800 dollars. Otherwise, I found the requirements to be very reasonable, even generous in some cases. It turns out you can get some worthwhile use out of Virgin America Elevate points by redeeming them on domestic Virgin Australia flights!

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