Yesterday MileValue wrote about the partnership between Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines, which allows points to be transferred between the two programs at a 1.35:1 ratio (points can apparently be transferred either direction at the same ratio, although I haven’t tried it yet).
Virgin Australia doesn’t belong to any of the big three alliances but, like Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, has a lot of partners around the world. It also has a distance-based award chart. Since Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of all three major flexible rewards currencies, that got me wondering: are there awards that are booked more cheaply using Virgin Australia’s distance-based rewards chart than other transfer partners?
The transfer ratio isn’t great
Since 1.35 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles become 1 Virgin Australia Velocity mile, you lose about 26% of your points right off the top. That means you’d need to spend 26% fewer Velocity miles than other rewards currencies before you'd start seeing a profit with this shell game.
airberlin is a bust
My first thought when seeing MileValue’s post was airberlin: it’s already a great airline to use distance-based Avios on because of the 3,749-mile distance between New York City and Dusseldorf, costing 20,000 Avios in economy with no fuel surcharges.
So I meticulously lined up the distance bands of Virgin Australia’s and British Airways award charts, adjusting for the transfer ratio between KrisFlyer and Velocity and looked for sweet spots.
Since I already made the chart, I’ll share it, but there’s nothing to see here.
For any given distance, an airberlin flight booked with British Airways Avios will be cheaper than the same flight booked with Velocity miles transferred from KrisFlyer.
Between Australia and the United States
Virgin Australia operates flights between Los Angeles and both Sydney and Brisbane, which cover 7,488 and 7,161 miles, respectively. Both routes will cost 47,000 Velocity miles in economy, 94,000 in business, or 141,000 in First. Converting from Singapore Airlines, those values come to 63,450, 126,900, or 190,350 flexible points.
Since you could book the same Virgin Australia flights for 50,000 Delta SkyMiles in economy or 80,000 SkyMiles in business, transferring points through Singapore Airlines is unlikely to be your cheapest route to Australia, unless you have no Membership Rewards points or SkyMiles banked.
Next I turned to Virgin Australia’s more advantageous award chart for flights on "Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Samoa, Etihad, Delta, and trans-Tasman Air New Zealand flights." Here I got a little bit of traction:
For extremely short flights along the West Coast of the United States, and between Austin and Dallas's Love Field, paying 6,900 Velocity miles (9,315 flexible points) may well be the cheapest option, depending of course on award availability and paid ticket prices.
Additionally, since award flights to Hawaii on domestic carriers will typically cost more miles than flights within the mainland, if you can find Virgin America award availability between San Francisco and Honolulu or Maui, you can come out a little bit ahead. Even if it’s not a windfall, it’s at least worth keeping in mind while searching for award seats, as an additional option in the face of dwindling award availability.
Transfer Starpoints directly to Virgin Australia
So far I’ve been talking about transferring Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer in order to transfer them to Virgin Australia.
But Virgin Australia is also a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, at a 1:1 ratio, with a 25% bonus when you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starpoints.
If you’re Starpoint-rich, you don’t need to take the initial 26% hit by transferring your points to KrisFlyer; you can transfer them directly to Virgin Australia Velocity.
I've never given much thought to Virgin Australia, either as a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest or of Singapore Airlines, so these are just my very preliminary thoughts on using their miles for fun and profit.
What else should I and my readers know?