Virgin Atlantic's New A350 Upper Class Suite

A Posh British Christmas – Part 1: Outbound Planning

I’m often asked how I go about booking a points and miles trip, and what factors go through my mind when searching for flights. So, in this post, I’m going to share some of the planning steps for an upcoming opportunity to visit my family in England for Christmas!

I typically try and fly on cash economy tickets to Europe to earn and maintain my Delta status. By December, however, I will have flown enough to keep my status for 2020, so it was time to look at splurging with some points and miles — yay!

To Use or Not To Use SkyMiles…

Flying to London, I wanted to fly with either Delta (DL) or Virgin Atlantic (VS). Due to Delta’s ownership stake in Virgin, you can book award flights with either airline using either program (Delta SkyMiles or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club).

The major pro for using VS Flying Club points is that awards can be had for much fewer points than Delta would charge. For example, take the below DL-operated flight from Minneapolis to London:

Screenshot of VirginAtlantic.com showing a flight costing 47,500 miles and $624.20 in cash.

Now look at the very same flight on Delta’s website:

Screenshot of Delta.com showing a flight costing 80,000 miles and $5.60 in cash.

For almost half of the miles Delta wants, you can book the same business class seat using Virgin! But, you pay over $600 more in taxes and fees—ouch!

VS Flying Club has its sweet spots though. Flights to Paris or Amsterdam don’t levy the same taxes and fees, nor do Delta-operated flights to Asia. London is a bit of an exception as it has very high passenger taxes, which VS passes on to the consumer and DL does not. Based on this, I focused my search on using Delta SkyMiles for this trip.

While I was searching, I remembered that Virgin Atlantic is launching their brand new A350 product in a couple of weeks from New York to London. The A350 is one of Airbus’s latest aircraft, and Virgin Atlantic has designed a brand new seat for the plane that I am itching to try out!

Photo of Virgin Atlantic A350 Lounge Area
The Virgin A350 features a ‘loft’ lounge area — how cool is that!?!

I quickly focused my searches to include a connection in JFK, and after a couple of tries found what I needed:

Screenshot of flight from MSP to London for 86,000 miles.
Full disclosure — I’m actually booked on the later flight from JFK-LHR but bagged the last seat so I couldn’t pull a screenshot for this post!

After a quick flight from MSP to JFK in first class, I’ll have a couple of hours to check out the awesome JFK Clubhouse Lounge before taking an overnight flight to London on the brand new aircraft in their brand new Upper Class suite!

86,000 miles might sound like a lot, and indeed it isn’t cheap. The lack of taxes and fees, however, makes it a much more compelling argument, as does the ease with which you can earn Delta SkyMiles…

So, How the Heck Did You Pay For It?

I earned the points needed for this trip in a variety of ways:

First, was flying on Delta. By having Platinum Medallion Status, I earn 9 miles per dollar spent. Several business trips and a couple of personal trips to London helped net me several thousand points this year (I’d estimate around 15-20,000). I also received 15,000 points last year as an apology for Delta changing an aircraft on Monica and me on our last flight to England!

Next, I received a little over 35,000 miles by spending $25,000 on my Delta Amex Platinum card this year. This card only earns one mile per dollar spent (2x on Delta purchases), but if you spend $25,000 you get an additional 10,000 miles (as well as a waiver on the spend requirement needed for Medallion status).

Finally, I transferred the balance of points needed from my American Express Membership Rewards account. I earned most of these points using my Amex Blue Business Plus Card, which nets 2 points per dollar on every purchase. I also received points by referring friends to various Amex cards!

Between all this activity, it was pretty easy to earn the miles needed for this awesome redemption. A quick search on Google flights shows the *actual* cost of this flight had I paid in cash:

Screenshot of flight from MSP to London costing $7969.20

Wowza – I certainly could not afford this flight if it weren’t for the points and miles world. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to experience products and journeys such as this one!

What About the Flight Home?

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I’ve only managed to book a one-way flight. Much to my mom’s dismay, I don’t plan on staying in England forever. I just am still working on finding the perfect route home, but I have a couple of ideas. Stay tuned for part 2 to see what I am thinking!