Best ways to book flights between the US and Europe with Chase Ultimate Rewards
For other Ultimate Rewards partners, click the links below.
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Star Alliance-Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and United
- Part 3: SkyTeam Alliance- KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue
- Part 4: OneWorld Alliance-British Airways and Iberia
- Part 5: Virgin Atlantic (no alliance)
This series was written specifically for using Ultimate Rewards for flights between the US and Europe, but I want to point out that Amex Membership Rewards also transfer to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio. This means that if you have Amex MR points, you can transfer to Virgin Atlantic and book the flights discussed in this post. Also, Amex often runs promotions for bonus miles when you transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic, similar to the current British Airways and Iberia offer. This means that if you have Amex MR and they happen to have a bonus running when you are ready to book, you can get even better redemptions!
Using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book flights between the US and Europe
Virgin Atlantic is based in the UK, but their frequent flyer program is good for flights all over the world! This is an important program to discuss because you can transfer both of my favorite currencies, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, to Flying Club, the frequent flyer program of Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Atlantic is not part of any of the 3 major airline alliances in the world. There are a few non-alliances partners that are worth mentioning, though. For Europe, you can use Virgin Atlantic miles to book their own flights. But 2 other partners you can use for flights between the US and Europe are Delta and Singapore Airlines.
I’ll explain why using Virgin Atlantic miles to book Singapore Airlines flights between the US and Europe isn’t the best way to use Ultimate Rewards (or Amex Membership Rewards points). On the other hand, using Virgin Atlantic miles to book Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights can be a great value for flights between the US and Europe!
Change fees on award tickets: Change fee is 30 GBP (~$39) or $50 USD, depending on your route and the operating airline
Fuel Surcharges: You will have to pay fuel surcharges on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic. For partner award bookings, there may or may not be surcharges. I’ll explain more throughout the post.
Redemption charts: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has different redemption charts and rules for award flights that are operated by partner airlines. For that reason, I’ll discuss each partner separately. I’ll start with flights operated by Virgin Atlantic.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for Virgin Atlantic flights between the US and Europe
Virgin Atlantic’s redemption pricing model for Virgin Atlantic operated flights is kind of a distance-based and zone-based hybrid. The US is divided into 3 zones and each zone has a fixed amount of miles required. The regions with further distance (midwest and west coast) require more miles than the east coast.
- Connections are allowed, but you will have to redeem miles for the extra segment. In other words, connecting flight=more miles required.
- There are peak and off-peak dates
- There are fuel surcharges on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic
- One-way award tickets are allowed for flights operated by Virgin Atlantic
In this post, I explained why you should avoid using British Airways Executive Club for award flights to Europe for two reasons:
- London has the highest taxes and fees in the world. These fees are required regardless of the frequent flyer program to use to book an award ticket.
- British Airways collects fuel surcharges on their own flights and on partner flights (American Airlines, Iberia, etc.) to Europe.
Being based in the UK, Virgin Atlantic also has high taxes and fees.
Virgin Atlantic collects fuel surcharges on their own flights and on some partner operated flights. I’ll discuss surcharges on Delta flights below, but fuel surcharges are avoidable on some Delta routes between the US and Europe when you book with Virgin Atlantic miles!
How many Virgin Atlantic miles do I need to redeem for a flight between the US and Europe operated by Virgin Atlantic?
- Standard season (off peak) awards start from as little as 20,000 miles roundtrip. Yes, ROUNDTRIP! Considering the ultra-low amount of miles required, booking with Virgin Atlantic may still be a good redemption even with fuel surcharges.
- Peak season awards start from 40,000 miles roundtrip.
Here are peak and off peak dates for flights operated by Virgin Atlantic. There are also off peak dates for flights operated by Delta, but they are different. I’ll discuss those in the Delta section.
Standard season (off peak) travel dates:
- 17 April – 21 June 2018
- 7 September – 12 December 2018
- 7 January 2019 – 3 April 2019
- 23 April 2019 – 21 June 2019
- 9 September 2019 – 12 December 2019
Peak season travel dates:
- 22 June – 6 September 2018
- 13 December 2018 – 6 January 2019
- 4 April 2019 – 22 April 2019
- 22 June 2019 – 8 September 2019
- 13 December 2019 – 31 December 2019
A majority of Virgin Atlantic’s routes between the US and Europe are to and from London. There are also routes between the US and Manchester, Glascow, and Belfast, though. Keep in mind that some routes are seasonal. Click here for a route map.
Here is the chart for redemptions using Virgin Atlantic miles to book flights between the US and Europe that operated by Virgin Atlantic. This table is for roundtrip flights. One-way would be half the amount shown.
East Coast: Boston, Newark, New York (JFK), Washington DC
- Economy: 20,000 miles
- Premium: 35,000 miles
- Upper Class: 95,000 miles
Midwest/South: Atlanta, Miami, Orlando
- Economy: 25,000 miles
- Premium: 45,000 miles
- Upper Class: 95,000 miles
West: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle
- Economy: 30,000 miles
- Premium: 60,000 miles
- Upper Class: 135,000 miles
Keep in mind these are standard (off peak) dates. More miles will be required if you’re traveling on peak dates.
When it makes sense to pay fuel surcharges
The miles required for ATL-LHR roundtrip on a flight operated by Virgin Atlantic is 25,000 miles (in economy) on off peak dates. There is no chart for peak pricing, but this particular route jumps to 45,000 miles roundtrip at the lowest I could find for peak dates. Either way, the fuel surcharges are $465.
25,000 miles plus $465 could still be a pretty good value, depending on the price of cash fares. But for peak dates when the miles required jumps to 45,000 miles, I’d probably start looking into other Chase partners (or any other award currencies you have).
I actually had a whole section written about cents per point value and whether or not it makes sense to redeem 25,000 miles if you also have to pay over $400. I ended up turning it into a separate post because it is relevant to any redemption, not just Virgin Atlantic flights to Europe. Click here to read the post.
After searching paid fares, I determined that redeeming 25,000 miles for this flight is a good cents per point (cpp) value, even with the $465 in fees.
Some people would rather spend more points and save cash, and that is fine
You cannot get around fuel surcharges when you use Virgin Atlantic miles to book Virgin Atlantic flights to Europe. You can get around them by using Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta flights, but you’re probably going to spend more miles. More on that in the Delta section.
Important: You can also look at other Chase Ultimate Rewards partners and other options with any other award currencies you have. This is why I say you should never transfer Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards to an airline until you are ready to book. Once you transfer to an airline, those Amex or Chase points become airline miles that cannot be transferred back. But if you keep your points in your Amex or Chase account, you can wait until you are ready to book and choose which airline partner results in the lowest redemption cost.
If you want to get fancy, Upper Class is also a good redemption value
US to Europe roundtrip in Upper Class, Virgin Atlantic’s first class, is a great deal if we’re just looking at miles required. Virigin Atlantic requires 47,500 miles each way or 95,000 roundtrip if you book on off peak dates. You won’t find too many frequent flyer programs that offer roundtrip business class tickets to Europe for under 100,000 miles. On peak dates, you can get roundtrip Upper Class from ATL-LHR for 115,000 miles.
The bad news is, Upper Class award tickets come with absurd fees. First you have those high unavoidable taxes and fees that are added to any award ticket that involves London. Then you have fuel surcharges that are over $1000. This brings the total taxes and fees on ATL-LHR in Upper Class to a little over $1400 roundtrip.
Paid fares for this route are around $4,457. I realize this sounds absolutely insane, but for someone who would otherwise pay for business class, it’s a good cpp value.
So let’s look at the value. If you redeem 95,000 miles, you can’t really say you’re getting $4,457 in value. You have to subtract the fees. So, 4457-1421=$3036. If you want to calculate cents per point value, that’s the number to use.
- 0.031957 X 100= 3.2
- Cents per point value is 3.2
I’m not saying you should spend 95,000 miles and $1400, but if you did, it wouldn’t be the worst value on paper. The problem is, that value on paper doesn’t mean much to me since I personally would never pay $4400 for a business class flight to Europe. But would I pay $1400 and 95,000 miles? Maybe. I’d definitely look for other options with lower fees (or no fees) first, though.
The best way to avoid Virgin Atlantic’s fuel surcharges is to avoid Virgin Atlantic flights. You can use Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta flights to Europe instead, and you may be able to avoid fuel surcharges.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta flights between the US and Europe
Virgin Atlantic publishes a redemption chart for flights operated by Delta, but only for flights between the US and the UK. Other routes can be booked, but there is no published chart for other routes.
Fuel surcharges are collected on some flights operated by Delta between the US and Europe. More on that in a second.
I do not see a list of peak and off peak dates for 2019, so they may or may not be the same as the 2018 dates listed below.
Economy award tickets on Delta operated flights are priced the same as flights operated by Virgin Atlantic. US cities are different, though, since Delta has different routes.
East Coast: Boston, New York (JFK), PHL*
*I am not aware of any Delta flights between PHL and Europe. Also, I do not see any flights between Portland and the UK. On the other hand, I can search for flights from cities that aren’t listed. For example, Delta operates a flight from LAX to Paris. Seems like Virgin Atlantic needs to do some updating on the cities, but the UK prices shown are correct and current.
- Economy: 20,000 miles
- Delta One: 90,000 miles
Midwest/South: Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit
- Economy: 25,000 miles
- Delta One: 95,000 miles
West: Portland*, Salt Lake City
- Economy: 30,000 miles
- Delta One: 135,000 miles
East Coast: Boston, New York (JFK), PHL
- Economy: 40,000 miles
- Delta One: 115,000 miles
Midwest/South: Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit
- Economy: 45,000 miles
- Delta One: 115,000 miles
West: Portland, Salt Lake City
- Economy: 50,000 miles
- Delta One: 155,000 miles
You can expect to redeem 20,000-50,000 miles roundtrip for a ticket between the US and the UK on flights operated by Delta. You can also redeem Flying Club miles for Delta flights between the US and other European cities, but as you will see below, more miles are required.
A few more things to consider when considering Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta flights:
- Adding a connection is allowed, but more miles will be required. Virgin Atlantic calculates your total as the sum of all segments.
- One-way tickets are allowed
- Some routes aren’t searchable on Virgin Atlantic’s website. For example, I was unable to search Atlanta-Rome. Data points on the world wide web suggest these routes are bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles, but you will need to call.
Fees (and how to avoid them)
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club collects fuel surcharges on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic, but you may be able to avoid those fees by booking a flight operated by Delta.
Rule number one: avoid London
Here is a roundtrip ATL-LHR flight operated by Delta. Like I stated with Virgin Atlantic operated flights, 25,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket to Europe is fantastic. Note that this route operated by Delta is about $100 more in fees than the Virgin Atlantic operated flight.
More miles, less money or less miles, more money?
I could fly from Atlanta to Paris with no fuel surcharges, but that’s going to cost more than double the miles! To be fair, 60,000 miles is in line with what several programs require for roundtrip US-Europe award tickets. For example, United would require 60,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket between the US and Paris.
So is that a good value? You’ll just have to do the math based on what you would be paying if you were to buy the ticket. 2 cents per point on 60,000 miles would mean the ticket would need to be $1200… actually just a little more to account for the $83 in fees*.
*Speaking of the $83, those are the unavoidable taxes and fees that you will pay regardless of the frequent flyer program that issues your award ticket to Paris.
Here are two US-Europe options to consider:
- ATL-London: 25,000 miles plus $565
- ATL-Paris: 60,000 miles plus $83
One interesting thing to point out is that the redemption cost remains 60,000 miles even on peak dates. Assuming August 2019 will be a peak date (it was in 2018), it’s also 60,000 miles.
How many Virgin Atlantic miles do I need for a Delta flight to a European city outside of the UK?
Although there is no published award chart for Delta operated flights to destinations outside of the UK, it seems like 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles is the going rate for a roundtrip economy ticket.
Minneapolis to Paris is 60,000 miles roundtrip. The fees are $83.
The US is divided into 3 zones for Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights to the UK. The furthest zone (west coast US) requires the most miles of the 3 zones. I’d expect the west coast to require more miles to other European cities as well.
To my pleasant surprise, Los Angeles to Paris is also 60,000 miles roundtrip and only $83 in fees!
What about cities other than Paris?
Minneapolis to Amsterdam is 60,000 miles and $51 in fees. Portland to Amsterdam is also 60,000 miles and $51. I was unable to search Atlanta to Amsterdam as the option to book with miles was grayed out. Again, you might be able to book that route by calling.
What if I do not live in a city with nonstop Delta flights to Europe?
You can add a connection, but more miles are required. Virgin Atlantic calculates your total by adding the redemption price of all segments.
- MSY-ATL is 12,500 miles
- ATL-CDG is 30,000 miles
- One way is 42,500 miles
- Roundtrip is 85,000 miles
This is most likely not going to be a good redemption value. You’d be better off booking with a different frequent flyer program or booking through the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
Business class on Delta operated flights booked with Virgin Atlantic miles is the sweet spot
Delta’s premium cabin is called Delta One. Just like Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, the fees for a Delta One flight to London are bananas. You’re going to have to fork over ~$1300 roundtrip for a Delta operated flight between Atlanta and London.
Just like economy, you can avoid surcharges by avoiding London
Bonus: Unlike economy, Delta One between the US and cities outside of the UK doesn’t add too much to your redemption cost (miles required)! In fact, it might be lower.
West Coast to London in Delta One roundtrip would be 135,000-155,000 miles, depending on your dates. Plus those ~$1300 fees. But you can fly from LAX to Paris for much less.
LAX to Paris is only 100,000 miles roundtrip and $129! This is an excellent price.
Flying Club allows one-way tickets on Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights, but be careful
Flights to and from London will come with fuel surcharges. Plus those lovely taxes and fees. This includes flights operated by both Virgin Atlantic and Delta.
Most roundtrip flights operated by Delta to European cities outside of the UK do not have fuel surcharges.
One way flights to cities outside of the UK that are operated by Delta also will not have fuel surcharges.
But if you’re trying to book a one-way home from Europe, you may have to pay.
LAX-Paris roundtrip; Delta operates the flight both ways:
60,000 miles plus $83 is going to be your total. Note that ‘carrier imposed surcharges’ is 0.
One way LAX to Paris, operated by Delta:
30,000 miles and $5.60.
Remember, outside of fuel surcharges, flights to Europe are usually only $5.60.
It’s the return flight that adds the taxes and fees. So making this a roundtrip brings your total to 60,000 miles plus $83. But Virgin Atlantic seems to be collecting fuel surcharges on one-ways from Europe, even outside of the UK.
One way Paris to Los Angeles is 30,000 miles plus 212 Euros? HUH?
128 Euros of that total is ‘carrier imposed surcharges’
If you need to add an infant, Virgin Atlantic has a great policy!
You can add an infant for only 2,000 miles in economy or 10,000 in Delta One. One way would be half of those amounts. This is excellent considering infants are usually charged 10% of the paid adult fare on international tickets. That means if the fare is $1,000, you would normally have to pay $100 for the lap infant ticket. I’d rather redeem 2,000 miles than pay $100.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for Singapore Airlines flights between the US and Europe
Singapore Airlines only has two routes between the US and Europe. Those are Houston-Manchester and New York-Frankfurt. These routes are only available in economy if you use Virgin Atlantic miles to book. Here is the chart:
The cost is:
- 50,000 roundtrip for New York-Frankfurt
- 60,000 roundtrip for Houston-Manchester
One way tickets are allowed at half the amounts shown above. These numbers aren’t terrible, but you can do better if you have Ultimate Rewards. Or Amex Membership Rewards. If you were wanting to book either of these routes, you’re better off using Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles to book.
Virgin Atlantic miles may be useful for some Singapore Airlines routes, but not for flights between the US and Europe
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards, you can transfer to Krisflyer, the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines. Krisflyer requires 22,500 miles each way or 45,000 miles roundtrip for either of these routes.
Singapore Airlines does not collect fuel surcharges when you use Krisflyer miles to redeem seats on their own flights. I’m honestly not sure if Virgin Atlantic collects fuel surcharges on Singapore Airlines flights between the US and Europe, but I would guess that they do. I was unable to check because flights operated by Singapore Airlines aren’t available to book on Virgin Atlantic’s website. Just another reason to avoid Virgin Atlantic for Singapore Airlines flights to Europe!
3 reasons to use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to book Singapore Airlines flights between the US and Europe:
- Save 5,000-15,000 points roundtrip
- No fuel surcharges
- You can book online
Click here for more info about using Singapore Airlines miles to book flights to Europe.
Using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book Delta or Virgin Atlantic flights between the US and London is one of the lowest redemption costs to Europe in terms of miles. These flights will have fuel surcharges, but the super low amount of miles required may still make it a good redemption.
You can avoid fuel surcharges by redeeming Flying Club miles for Delta flights to other European cities.
- In economy, you will most likely have to redeem a minimum of 60,000 miles roundtrip for cities outside of the UK. This isn’t terrible, but adding a connection would probably be a deal breaker.
- In business class, flying to Paris or another city outside of the UK requires less miles than US-London! Plus there are no surcharges!
- One ways are allowed, but a one way from Europe may require additional surcharges, even from cities outside of the UK.
- While the redemption prices aren’t nearly as volatile as KLM/Air France Flying Blue, it’s a little tough to predict some city pairs.