US due to announce reopening plans next week
One of the biggest frustrations of the travel situation has been the ban by Trump of most non-US citizens from the UK and Europe plus a few other countries which still remain in place. At the start of the pandemic, this made sense as rates here were higher, but even as US cases soared and we had relatively low cases the ban has remained. This is despite allowing in countries with far worse Covid situations such as Mexico and Costa Rica.
Last month at the G7 Biden announced that they would be setting up a joint task force to look at reopening the border with the UK. All seemed promising for a while. Then by the end of June there were rumours that discussions were not going well and the reopening could be delayed for months.
Finally, we had a firm commitment to make an announcement about the plans. This comes after the UK removed the FCDO advice on the US, which I suspect is not a coincidence. The US is currently amber which means that UK citizens and residents can from 19 July return without quarantine and just one test after arrival if they were vaccinated by the NHS in the UK.
At a meeting with Angela Merkel yesterday when asked when there would be a decision, Biden said “It’s in process now,” He said he expects to be able to give a plan for reopening “within the next several days what is likely to happen… I’m waiting to hear from our folks in our COVID team as to when that should be done.”
While this is not definite, this is the most positive development we have had to date together with the removal of the FCDO all but essential travel advice. One of the key issues is the recognition of vaccine certificates by both parties although the US has said they do not plan to make vaccination a requirement of entry. This is an issue as it is virtually impossible to mandate quarantine for arrivals at the federal level. Another issue is that the CDC wants airlines to implement international passenger contact tracing as part of any lifting of restrictions.
Virgin’s best ever buy miles offer
For a limited time, Virgin is offering Flying Club members the chance to earn up to 60% bonus points when they buy Virgin Points which is their highest bonus to date.
They have also increased the limit on how many points members can buy to 150,000 (usually 100,000) and they have already just reset the limit so any previous purchases this year won’t count.
The bonus offer runs from Wednesday 14 July to Saturday 14 August. The amount of bonus you get depends on how many points you buy up to a maximum of 60%.
Richard X Moore, Virgin Points spokesperson, says: “We’re delighted to offer Flying Club members our best ever offer when buying Virgin Points so that they can quickly top up their balance and start rewarding themselves with the things they love and want. Across both Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club and Virgin Red, there are rewards to suit everyone, whether that’s a small everyday treat or a bigger extraordinary experience.”
Bonus points when making a purchase:
- 5-24k = 15% bonus
- 25-69k = 20% bonus
- 70-99k = 40% bonus
- 100k-150k = 70% bonus
So would I buy at these prices? This is not the best offer overall Virgin has done as previously they offered 50% on all purchases over 5,000 miles but if you want to buy a large amount then it’s as good as it gets. But Virgin generally does less frequent promotions than BA. So, if you want to top up for something you need to book soon, then it could be worthwhile buying now.
You also have to factor in that points transactions are subject to a £15 transaction fee. One thing to bear in mind is that for some destinations there is very little availability in business class. I have been looking at Barbados and there is virtually no availability in Upper Class for the whole of 2021. SeatSpy allows you to see a whole year’s worth of availability in one go.
In terms of redemptions, the best value one is the ANA first and business class deals which are incredibly hard to find. You can read our review here.
If you want other ideas for redemption on Virgin then have a read of this article. Before you decide to pay for miles, make sure you look at availability for your route and compare the price of taxes and charges plus the price of the miles versus booking a cash ticket. The good news is that virgin points never expire which gives you time to use them should plans fall through.