Redeem Virgin America Points for International Flights

Within the past few days, members of Virgin America's Elevate program received an email with the subject line, "Your points have gone global."

Translation: Elevate members can redeem their points for award flights on Virgin Atlantic (from March 19) and Virgin Australia (from March 22).

So far, so good. The Elevate program has been sorely in need of a wider range of award options.

Reading further, there's this in the body of the email:

Take roundtrips from the West Coast to London for as few as 25,000 points,* to Sydney for as few as 40,000 points,** or get around to many more hip destinations worldwide.

Those award prices are encouraging. Elevate points are, by my reckoning, worth around 2 cents apiece, so you'd effectively be paying approximately $500 and $800 for the referenced award flights.

But what about those asterisks?

* 25,000 Points + $650 taxes and fees for Economy class
** 40,000 Points + $749 taxes and fees for Economy class

Gulp! The taxes and fees—the bulk of which presumably are fuel surcharges—go a long way toward spoiling the deal. At those prices, you'd do better simply buying a ticket, for which you'd earn frequent-flyer miles.

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The value proposition improves somewhat for Upper Class awards, at 50,000 Elevate points plus $1,200 in fees. Fares listed on Virgin Atlantic's website for Upper Class flights between Los Angeles and London in early April ranged from $5,076 to $9,662. So while the fees are still a significant minus, at least you're getting a more favorable points-to-dollars ratio for your points.

Virgin America has, indeed, gone global. Finally. Elevate members, however, will have to think twice about global redemptions.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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