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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Redeeming points and miles to get to Israel isn’t as easy as some other Middle Eastern destinations. Although El Al, the flag carrier of Israel, is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, its loyalty program typically offers poor value and it isn’t a part of an alliance. Furthermore, the airline has suspended all flights indefinitely.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other options for getting to the Holy Land.
One of the latest airlines to introduce service to Israel is Virgin Atlantic. Finding saver-level business class award space on this route is usually challenging, but as pointed out by Thrifty Traveler, that isn’t the case right now.
Virgin Atlantic is currently offering wide-open Upper Class (business class) award space from numerous U.S. cities to Tel Aviv (TLV) for throughout 2021, including around major holidays. Even better, these awards are available through Delta SkyMiles so you can bypass the hefty surcharges you’d pay when booking directly through Virgin.
If you’re lucky, you might even end up on Virgin’s new A350 with enclosed suites — perfect for onboard social distancing.
Here’s everything you need to know about booking this deal.
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Virgin Atlantic business class award availability
You can currently find wide-open Virgin Atlantic business class award space to Tel Aviv from a number of the airline’s U.S. gateways, including:
- Boston (BOS)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- New York (JFK)
- Orlando (MCO)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington D.C. (IAD)
If you have a choice in aircraft, you’ll want to pick Virgin’s A350 with enclosed suites for the flight to London (LHR). Then, you’ll get to fly the 787-9 with lie-flat seats for the hop to Tel Aviv.
The award space is available for flights from October through the end of the calendar in August 2021, including over Passover. Most dates have award space for four or more passengers, so you can book this deal for the whole family.
How to book Virgin Atlantic awards with miles
The most obvious way to book these awards would be through Virgin Atlantic’s own Flying Club program. The program is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards and has business-class awards available from a reasonable 71,000 miles each way on these routes. However, it tacks on hefty fuel surcharges to award redemptions, which can easily hit about $800 on a round-trip redemption like this.
Fortunately, these awards are showing up through Delta SkyMiles. The program prices these awards at a flat 85,000 miles each way (170,000 miles round-trip), but charges a fraction of the taxes and fees.
Delta is an instant 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so you can easily top off your account if you’re short miles. As an added bonus, Delta is waiving award redeposit fees for tickets purchased by Dec. 31, 2020. So, you can book with confidence now and cancel later if necessary.
Important things to know
Before rushing to book this deal, it’s important to know that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and international travel is still largely restricted. Most international travelers are currently not allowed to enter Israel. While the award availability is for travel in 2021, if the situation doesn’t improve by then, you could be forced to cancel your ticket.
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic isn’t in the best financial state. The airline recently completed its $1.5 billion rescue plan to secure its future for the next 18 months but says that the return of transatlantic travel is imperative to recovery. Depending on how the situation plays out, the airline may be forced to reduce service in the coming months to stay afloat. Keep in mind, if the airline whose miles you used to book an award ticket goes bankrupt, your ticket and miles could be rendered worthless, and you won’t be able to reverse any points transfers from your credit card.
Maximize your purchase
When paying the taxes and fees on your award ticket, be sure to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases and offers travel protections in case anything goes wrong. Cards that fit the bill include The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Related: The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets
Earning transferable points
If you don’t currently have any of the aforementioned transferable points, you may want to consider adding one of the following cards to your wallet so you can jump on deals like this in the future:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point offer (offer subject to change at any time).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re either targeted for a 60,000 or 75,000-point offer (offer subject to change at any time).
- Citi Premier℠ Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
The information for the Citi Premier Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You can also review our guide to choosing the best Amex and our post on the perfect Chase quartet to see if another card might be a better fit.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.
SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.
And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free.
These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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