Quick hits: hijinks booking Mileage Plan awards on Virgin America

In the last few months I've written a couple posts about booking award travel on Virgin America, with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles and with HawaiianMiles, mentioning a few things I had come across doing everyday research.

Lo and behold, I actually just had occasion to book a Virgin America ticket with Mileage Plan, and found a quirk that might cost you thousands of Mileage Plan miles if you aren't paying attention.

Virgin America sometimes only makes one First Class award seat available to Mileage Plan at a time

I was searching for two tickets between the East Coast and San Francisco for June, and saw two First Class seats available for 60,000 Mileage Plan miles on Virgin America's nonstop flight:

After running the dates by my partner, I decided to just book one ticket for myself and book hers later. After running a search for one passenger, I found a First Class ticket available for just 25,000 miles:

While selecting my seat, I noticed that the First Class cabin was completely empty. After booking my ticket, I decided that booking a refundable 60,000-mile ticket for my partner made sense to make sure we were on the same flight. But when I searched again, another First Class ticket had become available at the 25,000-mile level!

Then I remembered that all Alaska Airlines tickets are refundable greater than 60 days before departure, so I went ahead and booked her a low-level ticket as well.

Out of curiosity, I searched again and yet another 25,000-mile ticket had become available. In other words, Alaska Airlines was only showing one low-level First Class award seat at time, but immediately made an additional seat available each time one was booked.

This doesn't seem to be a universal phenomenon, since I was able to find 7 First Class seats simultaneously on the same route on January 18, 2018, but it does seem fairly common for dates in June, when I'm planning my trip.

Since Alaska award tickets are refundable within 24 hours of booking, and outside of 60 days, there's no risk booking low-level award tickets one at a time to see if additional seats become available. If they don't, and you'd like to make different plans, you can quickly cancel all the reservations you were able to make.

The Mileage Plan search engine shows incorrect fees on Virgin America

For some reason the Mileage Plan search engine shows fees and charges of $19, but once you select a flight and continue the correct fees and charges, in this case $5.60, are shown.

My only theory is that the engine might be adding half the $25 partner booking fee, $12.50, to the security fee of $5.60, and rounding up to $19.

In any case, when you proceed to checkout you'll see the correct, lower fee before paying.