Understanding the Virgin Flying Club changes – Part 1, earning

Virgin Atlantic announced major changes to Virgin Flying Club yesterday.  You can find the details at this dedicated microsite.

I am looking at the changes in detail across two articles.  If you want to know about the changes to spending Virgin Flying Club miles, click here to read Part 2.  To put it simply:

miles earned from flights will be linked more closely to what you pay

status will be tougher to earn

peak and off-peak pricing for redemptions will be introduced

Economy and Premium Economy redemptions are generally getting cheaper whilst Upper Class is generally getting more expensive

Miles Plus Money can be used at 0.6p per mile and can cover the entire cost of a ticket, including taxes

there are NO changes to partner earning or redemption rates – everything unrelated to earning or spending miles on Virgin Atlantic remains untouched (this has been confirmed to me by Virgin although it is not mentioned on the website)

Virgin Atlantic 787

Earning changes

Today I want to focus on the changes to earning  – both Flying Club miles and tier points.

Change 1: Miles earned will be more closely related to the fare you paid

Virgin Atlantic has not moved to a revenue-based earning scheme BUT there will be a closer correlation between fare paid and miles earned.

This is how you currently earn miles on Virgin Atlantic flights (there are no changes to partner earning) – the actual chart is here:

  • Upper Class (J, D, C) – 300% of miles flown
  • Upper Class (I, Z) – 150%
  • Premium Economy (W, S) – 150%
  • Premium Economy (K, H) – 125%
  • Economy – 100%

and this is the new rate from 13th November:

  • Upper Class (J, D, C) – 400% of miles flown
  • Upper Class (I, Z) – 200%
  • Premium Economy (W, S) – 200%
  • Premium Economy (K, H) – 100%
  • Economy (Y, B, R) – 150%
  • Economy (L, U, M) – 100%
  • Economy (E, Q, V, N, O) – 50%

This PDF document shows the exact number of miles earned on every route, in every class.

If you have already booked a ticket for travel after 13th November, you will be rewarded under the most generous chart.  This is a welcome move.

Virgin Atlantic 350

Change 2:  Status bonuses will change, both in quantum and in the way they are calculated

Currently, a Gold member gets a bonus of 100% of base miles and a Silver member gets a bonus of 50% of base miles.

From 13th November, a Gold member gets a 60% bonus and a Silver member gets a 30% bonus on the total miles earned.

What does this mean?  Well, a Gold member gets a higher bonus if he flies a cabin and fare class earning 200% or more.  Otherwise the Gold member is worse off.  (60% of 200% is 120% which is higher than the old bonus of a flat 100%).

The same is true for a Silver member.  In a 200% cabin, your bonus is worth (30% of 200%) 60% of base miles.  That is higher than the current 50%.

Let’s see how a Gold member on a fully flexible ticket can really milk this!

Virgin Atlantic now guarantees that your miles are worth at least 0.6p because you can get that as a cash discount off any ticket (more on this tomorrow).

A Gold member flying to San Francisco on a flexible Upper Class ticket would now earn 68,633 miles.  At 0.6p per mile, that is £411 off your next Virgin flight.  Assuming you are a 40% taxpayer, that is the equivalent of a £700 bonus ……

Virgin 787

Change 3:  New family earning options

Children under the age of 12 will now be able to have a Flying Club account in their own name.

However, slightly oddly, only Gold members will be allowed to pool miles via a family account.  You will therefore have children with relatively small balances (most kids are flying on discounted economy tickets) who can never redeem them.  After all, a child cannot have a Virgin credit card, an Amex charge card, a Heathrow Rewards account etc etc.

If BA did this it would be OK because the child would be able to redeem for short haul Avios redemptions.  That is not an option with Virgin Atlantic so these small balances are highly likely to expire.  I’m not sure that this simply won’t frustrate members more than benefit them.

Virgin Foam

Change 4:  Status becomes harder to earn

It will be harder to earn Virgin Atlantic status from 13th November.  I am not entirely sure of the merits of this approach because it isn’t as if Virgin status has a lot of benefits outside of flying Virgin Atlantic.  This may be a way of reducing pressure on the Heathrow Clubhouse now that all of the Delta flights have moved to Terminal 3.

For no good reason at all, Virgin is grossing up the tier point scale by 25.  Your existing balance will be grossed up 25x on 13th November.

Here are the current tier point earning rates, multiplied by 25 for easy comparison (see the website here for the original):

  • Upper Class (J, D, C) – 150
  • Upper Class (I, Z) – 125
  • Premium Economy (W, S) – 100
  • Premium Economy (K, H) – 75
  • Economy (Y, B, R, L, U, M) – 75
  • Economy (E, Q, V, N, O) – 50

based on a target of 1,000 for Gold and 375 for Silver.

This is the new chart:

  • Upper Class (J, I, D, C) – 200
  • Upper Class (Z) – 100
  • Premium Economy (W, S) – 100
  • Premium Economy (K, H) – 50
  • Economy (Y, B, R, L, U, M) – 50
  • Economy (E, Q, V, N, O) – 25

based on a target of 1,000 for Gold and 400 for Silver.

Unless you are on flexible Upper Class tickets, status will become harder to earn.

You are now looking at having to make 20 return economy flights per year before you qualify for Clubhouse lounge access.  A Silver can only access No 1 Traveller lounges in the UK.

Conclusion

That, in a nutshell, is a summary of the earning changes.

If you have status and fly on fully flexible Upper Class tickets you will do exceptionally well.  For everyone else, the picture is less rosy.

As with the Avios changes, the airline is playing down the role of flying in actually earning miles.  Until the offer closed yesterday, for example, the Virgin Black credit card was offering 25,000 miles as a sign-up bonus.  You would need to do EIGHT return trips to New York in discounted economy to earn 25,000 miles now ……

Part 2, looking at the changes to Virgin Flying Club spending rates, is here.

(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.)

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Comments

  1. Jason Holway says:

    Over the last 18 months, VS has significantly reduced the value of what used to be a very good reward scheme. Specifically six events have impacted me: 1. no longer flying to Japan. 2. ending agreement with ANA, so no longer flying to Japan even with a partner. 3. check small print when booking with partners – I missed out on TPs/air miles on SQ. 4. spend now 50% more expensive – Economy to Upper was 30k, now 45k, so a 50% devaluation in air miles value (earlier this year). 5. now an economy return earns 5% of Gold status (50/1000) whereas before it was 10% (4/40). So a 100% devaluation of TPs. 6. 40% reduction in Gold status air miles earning. I have been a loyal VS customer and was a big fan of Flying Club. No more. When I phoned to complain, they talked about “balance” and made out that I had specific circumstances that meant I am unduly affected. BS from VS. Every member is impacted negatively, there is no balance and the consequences are all intended. Very poor show. BA here I come …

  2. Jason Holway says:

    On credit card – UK Virgin Amex offers PE upgrades and Companion tickets on spend, over and above air miles. Pretty useless – I certainly don’t use them at all. The BOA version gives you TPs for spend – was 2 a month on $2k. That should now be 50 per month (watch out!). Unfortunately you need US residential address and Social Security number for the BOA card …