***Update, it looks like Alaska plugged this loophole, sadly. You can still fly hidden city on the West Coast using this trick“
Well this is a sweet trick, you can fly one-way (or a very short open-jaw) coast-to-coast for just 6,000 Virgin Elevate points.
In the last 24 hours or so, Virgin and Alaska opened up their “Convert tool“. This allows you to transfer your Virgin America Elevate points to Alaska MileagePlan at a 1:1.3 ratio. Virgin is going away eventually so you can’t transfer the other way. That means 100 Elevate points will net you 130 MileagePlan points.
6,000 Virgin Points or 7,500 Alaska Points
You’ll need just 7,500 Alaska points to make this little trick work. If you transfer 6,000 Virgin points to AS, that will net you 7,800 Alaska points, so pick your poison. This “trick” involves booking a multi-city award with some unconventional routings.
What you’ll be doing is booking a one-way from, let’s say, San Francisco to Los Angeles, with a stop in Fort Lauderdale. Since the stop in Fort Lauderdale is considered just a stop, you aren’t charged any more than a normal one-way from SFO to LAX.
If you wanted to, you could just get off your plane in Fort Lauderdale and not catch your “second flight” to Los Angeles. You will have effectively flown from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale for 7,500 Alaska points one-way.
If you did complete your second leg ‘back’ to Los Angeles (while stopping in FLL for a few hours), you will have completed the world’s shortest open-jaw flight. (congrats!) An open-jaw is a three-point flight in which you return to a city other than your starting point. I can’t see anyone doing this unless you had a strange bucket-list item to complete.
Yes, New York too
This appears to be working on almost every East Coast city that San Francisco and Los Angeles fly to. As shown in the image above, you can fly SFO to JFK with a second leg to LAX. Like I mentioned, you don’t have to catch your final flight with this trick. If you miss your last leg and just stay in NYC, you’ll have flown Coast-to-Coast for 6,000 Virgin or 7,500 Alaska points in economy. This same flight one-way from SFO to JFK would cost you a minimum of 12,500 points one-way with any of the “big three” airlines.
First Class for 12,000 points
For just 15,000 Alaska points you can fly one-way in first class from SFO to JFK and then “to” LAX. If you transfer 12,000 Virgin points, that will net you 15,600 Alaska points. If you use this method to get a one-way from SFO to JFK (or any other compatible East Coast city), you will be getting a steal at 12k Virgin or 15k Alaska points riding up front. First class with the other big-three airlines will run you a minimum of 25,000 points one-way.
This scenario, of not catching your last leg, is called a “hidden city” flight. Since this is technically a one-way flight with a very unusual layover, your checked baggage will end up at your “final” destination. If you do book SFO to JFK to LAX but decide to stay in NYC, you would NOT be able to check luggage. Also, there is always a very slight chance that Virgin would try to put you on a direct flight from SFO to LAX should something change. (though you don’t ultimately have to change flights if you don’t agree to it)
How to Book
To book this multi-city one-way “trick” flight, you will need to go to Alaskaair.com. Once there, click on “all search options” to navigate to the advance search page.
On the advance search page, input your routing IE: SFO to JFK – JFK to LAX. Since this is technically a one-way flight with a forced stop in JFK, your layover can’t be very long. Choose the “multi-city bubble” and choose “use miles”. Remember, you’ll probably have to play around with the dates to find 7,500 point flight options.
How to get Alaska Miles
If you don’t have enough Alaska miles for this, you can sign up for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. The card offers 30,000 points after spending just $1,000 in 3 months. The 30,000 points should post REALLY quickly to your account after you spend the $1,000. There is a $75 annual fee on the Visa Signature card but you will also get a $100 statement credit after completing your minimum spend. That means you will technically MAKE $25 + get 30,000 Alaska points. (plus the 1,000 points from your $1,000 spent)
In order to access this credit card application, make a “mock” flight booking on www.alaskaair.com. Make sure you are looking for a cash fare (not with miles) and proceed to book until you get to the payment page. Just put in fake details and skip the seat selection. Once you get to the payment page of your mock booking, you should see a link in the bottom right of the page. Click that link and you’ll be redirected to Bank of America to complete your application.
You can hit your $1,000 spend by paying pretty much any bill on Plastiq.com. It will count as spend on your credit card statement while ultimately paying for a necessity. (2-3% fee applies)
American Express Membership Reward Points
If you have Membership Reward points, you can transfer them at a 2:1 ratio to Virgin. Not the greatest option, but still slightly better than using 12,500 points on a traditional carrier coast-to-coast. If you transfer 12,000 Membership Reward points to Virgin America, you’ll net 6,000 Elevate points. You’ll then take those 6,000 Virgin points and convert them to 7,800 Alaska points. You’d then have enough for a one-way “trick” flight from the West Coast to the East Coast on Virgin America.
Make sure you check around before booking this way as it may make more sense to just book using MR points for a conventional one-way. With 12,000 MR points, you can book a flight that costs $120 (or transfer 12.5k to Delta), so that may be a safer option than making two points transfers. (There are a handful of sub $120 trans-con one-ways available, so check first)
If you have a Virgin Elevate account but not an Alaska Airlines account, read this post. You can choose between a 10,000 point or $100 welcome gift when linking your Alaska account. Existing Virgin and Alaska members should have received a 10,000 point bonus in their Alaska account. That is a nice gift and more than enough for a “trick” one-way to the East Coast.