The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a bit like that hilarious relative you really love that seems to always stiff you with the bill when you go out. You have a blast in the process, but you end up paying for it, one way or another. Fortunately, for those in the know (you), there are quite a few ways to get excellent value out of your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, without the expensive surcharges...

The Best Uses Aren't On Virgin Atlantic

Since Virgin Atlantic essentially only flies from destinations around the world to London, there's no real way to beat the surcharges added to their own flights using miles. That puts a damper on the whole "free flight" thing. I would never really advocate for anyone to use miles to fly economy on Virgin Atlantic, since the taxes rival the prices you'd pay without using miles, but if you want to fly Upper Class using miles, or use miles to upgrade, there is decent value, it's just expensive for a "free flight"...

Use Them On Air China First Class...

Every airline award chart, with the exception of a few that flat out suck, offer a sweet spot. In other words, an amount of miles thats far lower than it should be. You can fly FIRST class, nope, not even Business, on one of Air China's luxurious suites from London to Beijing and vice versa for just 75,000 miles and $700. That's a total steal. 

Use Them on Virgin America In USA...

Yep, you can use Virgin Atlantic miles for flights on Virgin America, and it's seriously cheap. First class round trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco or Las Vegas is just 25,000 miles and roughly $5.60 in surcharges. Similarly, a round trip flight from New York to San Francisco or Los Angeles will run you just 25,000 miles round trip, with less than $10 in surcharges. 

Use Them For Short Flights In Japan, South Africa and Australia...

You can also use your miles on ANA, Virgin Australia and South African, allowing you to redeem as little as 12,000 miles for a round trip domestic flight in any of these countries. You'll avoid any major surcharges while seeing the best of three stunning countries. This is a great lesser known tip.

A TRICK To Get Partial Surcharge refunds, Even On Virgin Atlantic Flights!

I always advocate booking two one way tickets when using miles for a round trip. Having them as separate elements helps if you need to change just one but not both parts of the ticket. Aside from that, it can help save you money. On your flight returning to London, if you schedule a connection out of the UK within 24 hours of landing, you're due to receive a refund of the UK Passenger Tax from the airline, since technically, you're just connecting there : ) Call and ask for a refund if you have an onward connection...

So, Great Info, How Do I Book Partner Flights?

Well, it's always best to be informed. First find availability using miles on the airline you want to fly on, most likely by searching on their site. After finding space, call Virgin Atlantic to lock it in. Unfortunately, all of these must be booked over the phone. Get to it.