Virgin CombiFare …. a clever option when only half a reward flight is available

It is, of course, hugely frustrating to find that you can book half of a reward ticket but cannot find seats for other leg.  On short haul flights it isn’t so bad, because British Airways sells one-way fares on its short-haul routes which you can match with a redemption seat in the other direction.

On long-haul, though, it is usually a different matter.  In general, the only one-way tickets you can buy on long-haul routes are hugely expensive flexible tickets, which cost substantially more than a refundable return ticket.  This is no help at all with your award planning.

Things are a little different with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, however.  Virgin has CombiFares.

Virgin Atlantic 350

As you can read here, CombiFares allow you to book a flight with one leg booked using Flying Club miles and the other leg booked for cash.  The key, though, is that the cash element will be 50% of the equivalent return ticket, not the extortionate cost of a one-way ticket.

The cash leg of a CombiFare is only valid in Economy and Premium Economy, not Upper Class.  However, you can mix them with an Upper Class redemption leg.  It is OK, for example, to redeem miles for an Upper Class seat outbound and then ask for an Economy cash seat on the way back.

Let’s imagine, for example, that you can find Upper Class seats from New York for 40,000 miles plus $420 tax.  Assuming there are no Economy reward seats going out, you could add on an Economy CombiFare ticket instead.  If an economy return ticket for your dates would be £400, then in theory you’ll be charged £200 for the outbound leg.  (It is not clear if they adjust for taxes, ie whether Virgin halves the base fare and then adds the actual taxes for each leg.)

The full range of fare classes is included – in Economy, that means Y, B, R, L, U, M, E, Q, X, N and O fare classes.  This means that you will be able to mix and match from the cheapest available cash ticket.  If you want, though, it is also possible to construct a CombiFare using a more expensive cash ticket if you want the ability to cancel or change it.

I am guessing that it is not possible to cancel the cash leg if a redemption seat becomes available later – you effectively have a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket unless your CombiFare uses a flexible cash ticket.  That is arguably a small price to pay for the ability to book the trip you want even when seats are not available both ways, though.

These tickets can only be booked over the telephone, not surprisingly given their complexity.

Full details of CombiFares can be found here.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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Comments

  1. What a great idea! I never considered CombiFares before. Thanks!

  2. Corrine says:

    Whilst I haven’t used this before, we were in a similar situation with reward availability, so we booked to goto Antigua in Dec with BA and returning with Virgin, the outbound flights were off-peak too…. so even better value !

  3. For those who wish to travel to the U.S.,when you factor in the better award availability on Virgin against BA it makes sense to save up for Virgin redemptions. If only Virgin did companion vouchers it would then be a definite no brainer

  4. Yes – it’s funny that Virgin offers this, although they have good availability, and BA doesn’t, although they have no availability to speak of!

    As Kipto says, Virgin is definitely the way forward for US redemptions, I’ve just flown Upper Class from SFO to LHR – I didn’t get to see the famous Clubhouse at Heathrow, but even the one in SFO and the arrivals lounge in LHR were just so much better than a BA lounge. Quiet and exclusive, attentive at-seat service, made-to-order meals, smoothies…And reserving a massage at the arrivals lounge was no problem. Really good experience. The cabin experience was probably better than BA, too.

  5. I used this when they still flew HKG-SYD. It was booked over the phone but they required payment in person in HK!

  6. Paul Irving says:

    Does anyone have some fare examples for a real price to anywhere using this method?

  7. I’ve used the CombiFare for my trip to the US next year with my mum.

    I did a full reward LHR-NYC in economy & LAS-MAN in Premium for mum, costing 52500 points + £292.

    My Combi in the same classes cost 35000 points + £567.

    I didnt think it was bad value, especially when compared to the cash fares. LAS-MAN is a particularly expensive route.

    • It’s worth remembering that you can do Miles Booster on reward flights so i can buy back almost 34,000 for £340 (that’s for this trip and my other VS trip to Orlando next year). I’ve also earnt about 15,000 points for the hotel bookings in the states + points for paying on the VS credit card. My nett spend on points when i’m done will be about 10,000.

  8. Stuart says:

    It’s worth noting that the fare rules say you can’t subsequently upgrade the MpM part of the ticket. Having said that, if you get the right agent you might get lucky.

    I booked UC reward outbound and MpM PE return for LHR – IAD. Several months later I had enough miles for UC both ways. I rang up and, despite the rules saying no upgrades, the agent allowed me to pay the difference between my K (MpM) fare and the cheapest upgradable S fare which came to about £90 then use my miles to get into UC. Having status may have helped this process along a bit, I can’t be sure.

    • You can subsequently upgrade a combi fare, even to Upper Class (as long as you are booked in the right fare bucket). A MpM fare is something different (you use a small amount of miles for a discount on the cash fare) and you are correct you can not upgrade these. You can book a combi fare consisting of one way miles and one way MpM though.

  9. mark roscoe says:

    Just done the very thing:-

    Paid cash for a PE flight out and used miles for a first class return. Had to speak to an agent but he worked wonders and actually found 2 first class reward seats.

    • Virgin doesn’t offer first class, only business..

      • Virgin doesn’t have business. It has Upper class. Lol.

        • Virgin markets their business class as Upper Class, just as BA markets it as Club World. They are both business class fares, as per the fare description, rules and fare buckets used.

  10. Booked a combifare for my mum to HKG, economy outbound and UC return. Paid cash for economy. Was struggling to get decent value for economy return at near £600 but combi fare worked out at £525 + 60,000 miles. Can get miles back on the cash portion of the ticket albeit at 50%.

  11. Wally1976 says:

    Does the reward ticket and the cash ticket have to be booked at the same time? For example if I booked an outward ticket as a reward flight the day it became available, waited for the return date to become available but found no availability could I then phone up and book as a Combifare?

    Thanks.