Virgin America, not the prepaid cell phone company, is a San Francisco based airliner with a twist. VA is similar to JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, that is a good thing!
Virgin America often tops the Consumer Reports charts for customer satisfaction of domestic airlines. Award flight on VA works very much like JetBlue and Southwest as well, the points have a fixed value, which can go as up to 2.3 cents per point. That means a $100 flight is going to set you back about 4,450 Virgin ‘Elevate’ points. Compare that 2.3 cent value to about 1.3 cents per point on Southwest and 1.4 on JetBlue. The higher the cent per point value, the better. That means Virgin points can be worth up to 75% more than JetBlue and Southwest points.
American Express allows you to transfer your Membership Reward Points instantly to VA Elevate points. Membership Reward points are earned with the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card and the Amex Platinum card. Amex is currently running an offer allowing you to transfer your MR poinrs at a higher than normal ratio. Currently, 1,000 Amex MR points will transfer to 750 Virgin points, a 50% bonus until March 10th. Without the bonus your 1,000 Amex points will only convert to 500 Virgin points. This is a great opportunity if you live near an airport that flies VA, but the transfer bonus is only running until 3/10.
Virgin serves the following US airports:
As you can see, not every city in the US is served by VA. What can you do if you don’t live in one of these served areas? You can use ‘positioning flights‘ if you find a really good flight deal on VA. A positioning flight is one that moves you to another city to catch a second flight. Many times the first ‘positioning’ flight will be on a different airline than the second flight.
There is a really good deal on VA from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, 5,700 VA Elevate points one-way. That means you will have to transfer 7,600 points from American Express to convert to 5,700 Elevate points. I can fly from Phoenix to San Francisco – as a positioning flight – for as little as 2,200 Southwest points. That means I would use 7,600 Amex points and 2,200 Southwest points for a one-way from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale (stopping in San Fran to catch my second flight).
To go from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest, it would cost me at least 13,000 Southwest points one-way. If I would catch an award flight on American, United, or Delta I would have to burn 12,500 points to go from PHX to FLL. The best deal from PHX to FLL in this case would be to fly from Phoenix to San Fran on Southwest and then fly San Fran to Fort Lauderdale on Virgin. (9,800 points total, 7,600 + 2,200). If you live in the Bay Area it would be an even better deal for a non-stop to Fort Lauderdale on VA.
All Virgin flights include free live DISH TV at every seat and every ticket. Additionally, each seat will include an A/C power outlet and USB charging port. One of the coolest features about the touchscreen at your seat is that you can order food and drinks for yourself or for someone else on the flight. You can even chat other passengers on the plane if you feel flirty or end up sitting away from somebody in your party. How cool is that?
Currently, the sign up bonus for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is 50,000 points. Those 50,000 points will transfer to 37,500 VA Elevate points. Elevate points are worth up to 2.3 cents per point. That means your sign up bonus from your Amex PRG is worth up to $862 if you transfer all your points to VA (during the promo period until 3/10). The math is 37,500 Elevate points x $.023 = $862. Where else can you sign up for a single credit card and earn up to $862 in free travel?
Are you going to give Virgin America a try? You get; more leg room than most airlines (32″), best customer service in the US, free live DISH TV, mood lighting in the cabin, and power outlets at every seat. Oh, and they also fly to Hawaii and Mexico, go for it!