Apologies for the delay in covering this announcement (well, it isn’t an announcement as Virgin has not actually notified people about it!) due to my holiday last week.
I had a few emails pointing out that Virgin Flying Club was increasing the cost of upgrades.
However ….. Virgin is also allowing cheaper ticket classes to be upgraded. In a bad bit of PR, Virgin didn’t tell anyone about this second change.
Some of the people who emailed me were unhappy. I am more realistic. What would you rather have? Cheap upgrades from expensive ticket types you were never likely to buy, or more expensive upgrades which can at least be applied to the cheap ticket you bought?
Let’s go back a step.
On 15th February, Virgin Atlantic changed the Economy fare classes that can be upgraded using miles.
You might think that an Economy ticket is an Economy ticket. Not true. There are different types of ticket at different prices, reflecting different terms for refunds and changes.
The Virgin economy fare classes are Y B R L U M E Q V X N and O.
Until 15th February, the cheapest upgradable Economy class was ‘M’. In reality, this was often more expensive than buying an inflexible Premium Economy ticket and so there was no point in upgrading. It only benefited business travellers who were forced to travel Economy due to company policy but ended up with semi-flexible tickets because they booked late or had uncertain plans.
The changes brought in E, Q and X to the ticket classes that can be upgraded.
This is a major improvement. For the first time, it is likely that the average leisure traveller in Economy may have a ticket class they can upgrade.
Similarly, booking class H in Premium Economy can also now be upgraded using miles.
But what is happening to upgrade prices?
Virgin giveth, and Virgin taketh away …..
PLEASE NOTE FROM 01 MARCH 2016, THE MILEAGE LEVELS FOR UPGRADE REWARDS WILL INCREASE BY THE FOLLOWING AMOUNTS
Economy to Premium – increase of 5,000 miles per sector
Premium to Upper – increase of 10,000 miles per sector
Economy to Upper – increase of 15,000 miles per sector
These are, without doubt, chunky increases. Using New York as an example:
Economy to Premium Economy jumps from 10,000 to 15,000 miles, one way
Premium Economy to Upper Class jumps from 10,000 to 20,000 miles, one way
Economy to Upper Class jumps from 20,000 to 35,000 miles, one way
However, as I said at the top of the page, you need to see these in context. It is unlikely that you would have previously had an Economy ticket that could be upgraded so the cost was immaterial.
Virgin is now allowing cheap Economy and Premium Economy tickets to be upgraded and, to my mind, the new costs reflect that.
If you want to know how to book the cheapest ‘X’ class Economy and ‘H’ Premium Economy tickets, I strongly recommend reading this article on Flyertalk. It will tell you everything you need to know.
Does this mean full redemptions will increase in price?
Possibly, possibly not.
Let’s put it this way. Upgrading an Economy ticket to Upper Class now costs 70,000 miles return.
Booking an Upper Class redemption from scratch costs just 80,000 miles return.
That doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, until you remember that Virgin has BA-style fuel surcharges on Upper Class redemptions (£500+ return). When you factor that in, the two scenarios above are not so far apart in terms of costs and value.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)