Delta One Suite
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One of the fun parts of regularly searching for award space to figure out great ways to use your miles is that you start to figure out the standout, really great booking options. Similarly, the more you search for cash fares, the more you start to see patterns emerge.

If you spend some time searching for both award tickets and cash tickets, you’ll really start to get a clear picture of what it takes to get the flights you want and an understanding that “the kitchen sink” is often the best solution.

With this understanding, you can start to come up with some fun and creative ways to save miles, points and cash. Who doesn’t love doing that? From our perspective, this is even sweeter when you can figure out how to leverage this knowledge for total comfort. With that in mind, we wanted to walk you through an awesome way to book a round-trip business class ticket between the US and Europe and save huge money, with great flexibility — yes, it works both ways.

So, let’s dive right into it!

Use Virgin Atlantic Miles For Delta Flights TO Europe

Delta one Suites Cabin

Booking a business class flight on Delta to (or from) Europe — not the UK — can be a bit of a challenge when you redeem Delta SkyMiles, given the crazy number of miles it requires.

Fortunately, you can also book these flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for a much more reasonable price, and from a currency which is much easier to create. Rather than spending 105,000 SkyMiles +$5.60 for taxes/fees, you can use a mere 50,000 Virgin miles + $5.60 for the exact same flight. Good to know, right?

Since Amex Membership Rewards points from the US and Uk transfer to Virgin Flying Club, there is absolutely no reason to transfer over twice as many points to Delta SkyMiles to book the same flight. Of course, you can also transfer Citi or Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Virgin Atlantic as well. Is it any wonder why we’re always talking about opportunities to use miles to fly partners?

Take Advantage Of Transfer Bonuses

Virgin Atlantic Amex Transfer Bonus May 2019

This deal is only made even better by the current 30% bonus American Express is offering on transfer to Virgin Atlantic. Unfortunately for our friends in the UK, this is only for US cardholders. Sorry, dear friends. Still, 50,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket is solid!

Now, for our US readers, think about this. With a 30% bonus, you can transfer a total of just 39,000 Membership Rewards points to get the necessary 50,000 Virgin miles. Seriously, 39,000 points will get you a non-stop business class flight on Delta to Europe with taxes of $5.60. You won’t find a deal like that very often.

Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic will require more miles if you want to add a connection. This still might end up requiring fewer miles than Delta, though.

Now, for the other way…

TAP Air Portugal Business Class Deals FROM Europe

TAP Air Portugal Business Class Seat

Now, you could transfer points to Virgin to book a flight on Delta from Europe or perhaps use other airline miles to book an award ticket. However, you can often find some great one-way business class fares on TAP Air Portugal out of Europe. How great?

Well, the best deals are often from Oslo (OSL) to Boston (BOS) or New York (JFK). On these routes, we often see prices around $650 — sometimes lower. You can also depart from easy to reach Dublin or Copenhagen for around $750 one way. Just search on Google Flights, using these tips.

When you consider that you’d need 55,000 Aeroplan miles, 63,000 LifeMiles or 70,000 United miles to book this flight, the cash price really makes that a bad time to use your miles on an award ticket. Now, we understand that $650 isn’t necessarily in everyone’s budget for a one-way ticket. For those in the US, there’s a fun workaround to this.

Use The Chase Travel Portal

TAP Business Class With Ultimate Rewards Points

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel in the Chase travel portal. If you can find one of these great TAP Air Portugal fares in the Chase portal, you can use your points to book it and spend exactly $0. Take the example above, a $654 ticket can be booked for 43,595 Ultimate Rewards points. Compare that to transferring 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points to United and you quickly understand why this is a better deal.

Even if you don’t have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can get 1.25 cents per point in the Chase portal if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Card. With these cards, you’d still only 52,314 Chase points for the flight.

Outside of Chase, you can get 1.25 cents per point in the Citi Travel Center if you have the Citi Premier (Learn More). The Business Platinum From American Express (Learn More) is more like the Sapphire Reserve in that it would provide a 35% rebate if you booked this flight through Amex Travel. That rebate comes out to about 1.53 cents per point.

You can even pick your favorite Star Alliance and earn a nice chunk of redeemable miles and make progress toward elite status. We know plenty of people who like the perks of their Star Alliance Gold status. Just make sure you pick a program whose miles you know you’ll use. If you need help deciding where to credit your flights, you can use Where to Credit to see a quick comparison of your options.

Putting It All Together

As you’ve probably figured out already, this works for both those based in the US or those based in Europe. The key, however, is using Virgin miles to fly Delta out of the US and paying cash — or using a bank travel portal — for the flight out of Europe.

If you were to book the Delta flight from Europe, you’d be looking at taxes and fees that surpass $300+ because of the surcharges that get tacked onto the ticket. If you booked a one-way TAP business class fare from the US to Europe, the lowest price you’re likely to find is around $1,200.

So, you can book this trip from either the US or Europe but knowing which direction to book each flight is important. It’s the difference between using 50,000 Virgin miles + about $655 and using 50,000 Virgin miles + about $1,500. If you’re anything like us, you’d prefer to save the $1,000 to use on some amazing experiences during your trip.

Final Thoughts

When you look at this example, the best choice is obvious. Sometimes, the difference won’t be that stark but it’s a great reminder to check cash prices of the flights you want and to make sure you consider which miles are best to book a particular award flight.

It might seem silly but this is one of the reasons why I tell people to consider the trip after the one they’re currently booking. With the next trip in mind, you’ll see how useful it is to save some points and cash as it means you won’t have to earn as many for the next one. By thinking beyond the immediate task, you’ll make future trips even easier to book and you might even save a nice bit of cash to be used on these trips.

Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard is a credit card rewards and award travel expert. He’s living proof that points and miles can unlock many of the greatest travel experiences and uses his skills to tick off new bucket...

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12 Comments

  1. Did you check the seats on SeatGuru? Angle-flat on TAP. Not what we expect in Business class.

    1. Hey Frank – Some of TAP’s A330-200s have lie-flats and it’s putting the new A330-900neo on many US routes. Either way, for a daytime flight to the east coast, it’s more than tolerable and being able to stretch out is nice. Not world class, but definitely nicer than economy.

  2. OK, thanks, Spencer, I see for my dates it’s an A330-900neo. Do you know what seats that would have in Business Class? Flight TP201 in July.

  3. Hm, is the Virigin/Delta deal already gone? I’m looking for BOS – LON on the Virgin website and all I see is 57,500 miles + $624 in taxes… I tried many different dates.

  4. aaaaahh, not sure how I missed that! Duh. Thanks (and even better, since that’s not my last stop, anyway).

  5. The virgin/delta angle is well discussed in the blogosphere but the TAP idea is nice original thinking i’ve never seen discussed anywhere else. thanks for sharing this – love this sort of content.

    P.S. Are there any other cities in Europe that work well for the TAP flights…or it’s pretty much just those three?

    1. So glad you liked it HoKo! The TAP flights work from a bunch of cities but Oslo is regularly the cheapest. Budapest, Copenhagen, Prague and Warsaw have had good prices int he past.

  6. Also, I forgot to ask – I find searching for Delta flights on the Virgin website to be a major PITA. Do you have recommendations on the best way to search this space? Air France maybe?

    1. You can use Air France or KLM but I find Vrigin Atlantic is fine if the online search allows you to search the city pair you want. The ability to search 5 weeks is nice and you can quickly figure out if the flight is on Delta just by looking at the miles required on the calendar.

  7. Hello. Faithful reader here, losing faith in Virgin. I called Virgin four different times and each rep (including an ‘Upper Class Service’ rep) informed me that their systems only support booking with miles for city pairs that Virgin flies to. So, for instance, the routes I was looking for (JFK-MUC & JFK-VCE, both direct Delta routes) were not ones they could book with miles. HUCU three times wih the same answer from each rep. Please enlighten me here re: the steps you need to take to book a route that Virgin doesn’t show in it’s ‘destination’ list on their website. Cheers!

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