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As of yesterday, thanks to the acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Airlines, you can now book Virgin America operated flights using Alaska Airlines miles, as well as transfer your Virgin America Elevate points to Alaska Airlines at a rate of 1 Elevate point = 1.3 Alaska Airlines miles. Note that this is a one-way transfer, and you cannot transfer points back from Alaska Airlines to Virgin America, so you need to be darn sure this is what you want to do before going forward.
Book Virgin America Flights from 7,500 Alaska Miles
My test searches showed Virgin America economy flights starting at 7,500 miles each way and Virgin America first class seats starting at 15,000 miles each way. An example of that is shown below on the short route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. However, most economy awards on Virgin America seem to be in the 12,500 – 20,000 Alaska miles range per seat.
Should You Book via Virgin America Points or Alaska Airlines Miles?
Assuming you have Virgin Elevate points to use, you may want to do some award price comparison shopping before transferring points to book via Alaska’s program. The same 7,500/15,000 mile flights shown above are available for just 1,661 Elevate points in economy or 7,522 Elevate points in first as shown below. Using the 1 : 1.3 transfer rate, that is the equivalent of 2,094 Alaska miles in economy or 9,779 in first if you transferred the points in from Virgin America. This means that you would obviously be much better off using your Elevate points to book these flights rather than transferring your Elevate points to Alaska to book the same flights via that program.
While most of my test searches turned up a better deal booking Virgin America operated flights via the Elevate program rather than transferring your Elevate points at a 1 : 1.3 rate and booking via Alaska, that wasn’t always the case. For example, on this flight below from San Francisco to Maui you would pay 40,742 Elevate points for first class, or you could transfer “just” 31,327 Elevate points to Alaska to get the 40,000 Alaska miles you would need to book the same flight via the Alaska Mileage Plan program.
As another even better example, these Virgin America flights below from New York to San Francisco in first class would cost you 50,000 – 60,000+ Elevate points each, but can be had for just 25,000 Alaska miles or 19,231 Elevate points transferred in from Virgin America.
That is a great example of when it is cheaper to book awards via the Alaska program rather than Virgin America!
I’m betting that when it is cheaper to book Virgin America award flights with Alaska miles, it will most frequently in first class, though even then it won’t always be the case that Alaska is cheaper. If you have access to miles in both programs, you should certainly compare the price of Virgin America award flights via both Virgin America and Alaska (factoring in the Elevate points to Alaska miles transfer ratio) to determine the best course of action.
Have you found some great uses of Alaska miles to fly Virgin America?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.