I recently attempted to book both Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia with Delta SkyMiles but ran into a few issues when trying to book the flights. So I thought I’d share some things I learned about the booking process. I’ll first talk about Virgin Atlantic and then go into Virgin Australia.
Virgin Atlantic route network
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have the most expansive route network globally but they do fly to some of the major hotspots around the world, such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Johannesburg. Virgin Atlantic flies to many cities in the US, however.
The destinations in the US include:
Their hub is in London (mostly in LHR) but they also have flights that go out of Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast. They fly the 747, 787, A330, and A340, and they also have orders for the A350 and A380 on the way. The aircrafts offer an economy, premium economy, and business class (called “upper class”) but no first class.
Booking Virgin Atlantic with Delta
Booking Virgin Atlantic with Delta SkyMiles to Europe isn’t a bad redemption in terms of fees paid. For a one away award it’s 85,000 miles and only $5.60 in fees.
85,000 miles is still pretty insane (in a bad way) considering you could book a roundtrip to Europe with a stopover with ANA miles for only 88,000 miles! Let that sink in for a moment.
Roundtrips to the UK offer worse deals and as a business class redemption they will cost you 170,000 miles in business class but close to $270 in fees.
For such a high mileage requirements, that’s still a bit much in fees. Flights flown with Delta only come out to 140,000 roundtrip, as the most recent devaluation only affected partner redemptions.
Still, Delta miles can be extremely easy to acquire especially if you catch the Amex Delta credit card bonuses at their peak. For example, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express was offering 70,000 miles for a sign-up bonus recently and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express has offered 50,000. There are business versions to these cards so it’s often possible to rack up Delta SkyMiles very quickly. So for that reason, I’ll cut them a little slack.
Finding Virgin Atlantic flights
The Delta website will show you availability for Virgin Atlantic flights. You will be able to see the flight number when searching and when it shows “VS” you know it’s a Virgin Atlantic flight.
If for some reason you need to call to change your booking, know that the phone agents often can’t see award seats on Virgin Atlantic in business class. They will tell you that they are not bookable but I’ve proven them wrong (see below).
I recently tried to change a booking and multiple Delta agents confirmed that they couldn’t see the Virgin Atlantic business class award seats that were open. They even told me that I would not be able to book the flight if I tried to do it online and that the open business class seats I was looking at were simply “glitches” or were not updated correctly.
As I suspected, the agents were 100% wrong and I was able to book those tickets after I re-deposited my SkyMiles. It cost me $150 but with the $100 Platinum Delta SkyMiles statement credit I was really only out $50.
To pick your seat, you can locate the eTicket number in your Delta confirmation email. You’ll find it where I’ve placed the red box below.
Then log into Virgin Atlantic and go to the top of the screen where you see “My Booking.” At that point, you’ll put in your name and eTicket number and then you should be able to select your seats. Many of the aircrafts have a herringbone configuration so that the “A” section will provide you with the most privacy since you won’t be looking directly across at an open seat. (The A330’s 1-2-1 configuration known as the “Dream Suite” is being phased out and converted to the 1-1-1.)
Virgin Australia route network
Outside of Oceania, the Virgin Australia network is very small. For example, here are the nonstop flights from SYD.
The good news is that they fly three routes to the USA (LAX) that depart from SYD, MEL, and BNE so you can try out three different flights if you’re trying to get to or from North America. Virgin Australia flies the swanky business class product called “The Business” with a 1-2-1 layout on the 777 that services these routes and it’s received many positive reviews.
Booking Virgin Australia
A couple of months ago I sought out to book Virgin Australia with Delta Skymiles. I ultimately ended up booking a Virgin Australia flight with Virgin Australia Velocity miles (thank you SPG referrals) but I first tried really hard to book the flight with Delta SkyMiles. It took a long time on the phone to sort everything out, but I learned that Virgin Australia only releases business class awards approximately two weeks before the date of departure to its partners.
You can find the available business class awards on Delta’s website the same way you search for Virgin Atlantic. Just look for the “VA” as seen below. A one way award from LAX to SYD will run you 115,000 miles but fees are very reasonable at $27.
Overall impressions of Delta customer service
I went through about 7 or 8 phone calls with Delta agents when testing things out for these bookings and inquiring into related matters. I’d say 5 or 6 of those calls were unpleasant for various reasons. Many of the agents I spoke with were polite but just misinformed. They repeatedly told me that I was looking at glitches or faulty updates when that was not the case and a couple of agents really struggled to search for partner awards, as if this was the first time they’d been asked to do that. Wait times were also horrendous unless I called in at 5am.
A couple of other agents were just flat out rude or inconsiderate. For example, I called in to change a booking but was told that the seats I found were not actually available. Despite the “warning” from the Delta agent, I decided to redeposit my miles and attempt an online booking for these so-called unavailable seats.
After redepositing my miles over the phone I wanted to see if I could actually book a flight before processing the redeposit of Brad’s miles. I wanted to do this because if the award seat I was looking at was truly phantom space, then redepositing Brad’s miles could have been a waste of $150.
I told the agent that I already had the booking info pulled up for that flight and wanted to test it before processing Brad’s redeposit. At that point he went off about how he “doesn’t have time” to wait for me to do that and how I just needed to do the refund or end the phone call. I told him it would take like 1 minute to do but he refused. That was straight up ridiculous.
I ended up just slowlllly calling out the credit card information for Brad (and messing up on purpose) while I simultaneously tried to book the ticket on my computer. When the ticket was issued, I completed the redeposit process for Brad.
I’ve made my stance clear that I’m not a fan of the Delta SkyMiles program but the incompetency and poor customer service I received on multiple occasions just made it worse. Anyway, hopefully, this information can help you have a smoother booking process than I had. Despite the high mileage requirements, I think booking Virgin Atlantic and Australia flights with Delta can still be decent deals given the low fees, the ability to quickly earn Delta miles, and the product level of both airlines.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.