It was my first time flying Virgin America and I must say I was mostly underwhelmed. After attending the CPM Conference at San Francisco Airport (SFO) I decided to take an afternoon flight back to New York – Virgin America offered me the best deal, despite the fact that I did have to pay to check my luggage.
The plane was small – only an Airbus A320, with two rows of domestic first class (meaning: reclining, larger chairs) and a whole bunch of economy. There were a few seats in “Main Cabin Select” class, but those were extra money and I didn’t want to pay for that.
The main gripe I had was the in-flight entertainment was expensive if you wanted on-demand video. For a TV show, it cost $3 and for a movie, it was $8. Luckily, they happened to have a live TV option and so I watched two movies back-and-forth within commercial breaks (I can’t remember the last time I did that). They also had a place outside the gate where you could buy headphones.
Also, even though they have a cool system for ordering drinks and food, they did not have any kind of free, complementary snack! Even a small package of peanuts would do, but no – everything costs money. It wasn’t the most expensive thing in the world, but principles are principles.
The small, funny experience I had on the flight was during that time when the plane is still on an incline but the cabin crew has started their service. I was walking behind a flight attendant bringing up the drinks cart and helped her push it up the hill. She offered to even buy me a beer as a thank you later on but I declined. Apparently, she spoke to another flight attendant about me too. I guess they don’t get much kindness on airplanes.
It was a relatively short transcontinental flight – 4 hours, 45 minutes – and it gave me a lot of time to reflect on the conference I had just attended. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to fly Virgin America in the future, but the flight attendants were kind and attentive and if I had status, maybe it’d be nicer.
Today Jetblue announced a new promotion in concert with Virgin America that could earn you up to 75,000 TrueBlue points for doing something very small: having a certain amount Virgin Elevate points in your account and making one paid flight. Here are the steps:
- See how many points you currently have in your Elevate account. Then add some through transferring from Starwood, CitiBank, or AMEX Rewards to boost your balance.
- Take a screen shot of your Virgin Elevate account with whatever amount of points you can muster.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 4 with that screenshot and wait to hear you are registered.
- Book and fly a paid roundtrip JetBlue flight before 8/31/16.
This is also being reported by View from the Wing and DansDeals with some pretty amazing fanfare. I personally may take a mileage run from JFK-BOS just to get the 75,000 points. It will make for some cheap tickets to Florida this winter!
My wife and I are traveling to San Francisco in October for a wedding of some good friends but had an issue where our miles seemed not to work as well as we would have liked them to. Originally I tried to book United flights but all the saver availability (25,000 miles roundtrip) seemed to be out for the flights that we wanted. Since I have the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card (contact me for a referral) we are still able to purchase the standard award level (50,000 miles roundtrip) for these flights, however. That would have been our best option.
With this reservation, our cost/mile usage would be 1.05 cents/miles. The Points Guy values United miles at 1.5 cents/mile so this would not be the best use of our miles.
Then I remembered a critical component of travel with miles and points: booking awards with partner airlines. I’ve written previously about using British Airways Avios to book American Airlines flights because it’s so easy to do – simply use their website tool to find availability. There is something to be said, however, for simply “phoning it in.”
I remembered that Virgin Atlantic has partner airlines in Virgin American and Delta and that roundtrip flights within the Continental US are only 25,000 miles roundtrip (plus the $5.60 September 11th fee). I called them up and found that while there was no availability for Virgin America, the Delta option was wide open. I put a hold on the flights that we wanted that will stay in place for 48 hours.
In the meantime I transferred 50,000 points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account into my Virgin Atlantic account and just waited. In theory it should be instantaneous and in reality it took about three minutes for the miles to show up. So, in the end I am able to book the following Delta flight with only 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for my wife and me:
In this new scenario, our points/mile ratio is 1.87 cents/mile. The Points Guy values these miles at between 1.5-2.3 cents/mile so we are right on the money.
All in all, not bad for a day’s work of savings.