I finally book the UK’s best value – by far – frequent flyer redemption!

There is one redemption opportunity via a UK frequent flyer programme which – in terms of flights departing the UK – is head and shoulders about the rest in terms of value.

Even more amazingly, availability for this redemption is very easy to find.

Until yesterday, I had never booked it.  Even now, I have booked it but someone else will be flying.


Virgin Atlantic is not in a major airline alliance, despite Delta Air Lines – a core plank of the Skyteam alliance – being a 49% shareholder.

Despite that, the airline does have a number of airline partners with whom you can earn and redeem Flying Club miles.  These include :

  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • SAS (earning only)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

… plus of course Delta.

One of these partners offers outstanding value – Air China.


You can fly First Class from London to Beijing on Air China for just 75,000 Virgin Flying Club miles return.  Business Class is just 63,000 miles, although you’d be silly not to pay the extra 12,000 miles if you can.

The tax, as I found out yesterday, is £508.75.

There are two caveats to the Air China deal, but these are minor:

You can only book London to Beijing.  No other routes are possible, no add-on connections are possible.

You can only book return flights

You can check availability online.  The easiest place to look is the United Airlines website.  United lets you search for redemption availability even if you don’t have a United MileagePlus account – you don’t even need to log in.

If you can see ‘First Class Saver’ space showing for Air China, Virgin Flying Club should be able to book it.

The booking process took 20 minutes but that was mainly due to the agent – who knew exactly what she had to do – waiting for Air China to approve the seat.  It was a longer wait (25 minutes) to get to the front of the Virgin phone queue, as many people are currently calling up with problems following the botched relaunch of the Virgin Atlantic website.

To put this redemption in context, British Airways Executive Club charges 170,000 (off-peak) or 200,000 (peak) Avios points plus £550 for London to Beijing in First Class.

Even if you have a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL better value to use 150,000 Flying Club miles for two people.

The eight-seat Air China First Class seat doesn’t look too bad either as the photos in the article show.  It is not on a par with Etihad or Emirates (the food seems to be especially weak) but for 75,000 Virgin Flying Club miles return …..?  I don’t think anyone will complain.

As I said, this ticket was not for me but I will try to get a review done.

Did you win 100,000 Avios with Bink?
Bits: BA cabin crew to strike, Accor / Amex cashback extended, SAS / Avis deal
About Head for Points

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  1. Air China is cheap for a reason, it is a dreadful airline and I’d never go back to China if I can help it.

  2. Can this also be booked for a return flight starting in Beijing to London?

  3. I am a long term reader of this blog. First of all, thanks a lot for the information this website has provided and a fantastic job Rob has done.

    It is very interesting to read all the comments about air china and China itself.

    As a Chinese, for Air china, I would say avoid them. The service is poor. It is miles away from BA not even mention Qatar or Emirates. I don’t use them unless inside of China.

    I am sorry to hear some people did not have a good time in China. It is very true that people spitting, loud in public, smoke in restaurants and sometimes can be very rude. I hate this too. But I can assure you this won’t go away quickly. it is happening and will happen again. Don’t forget thirty years ago people in China don’t even have enough food. It will take much longer to educate/civilize 1.6 billion people. The good thing about China is it is changing every day.

    For some other comments, sorry I have to say I don’t agree at all. I have been to India, put it this way, compared to “the biggest democracy in the world”, I prefer the Chinese way.

    • Hao,

      Hope you’re not offended by some of the views above, I do believe that travel should broaden the mind, but we should also be realistic about the things we wish to experience whilst travelling..

      Just wanted to close with saying I appreciate your open honest comments and that your contribution is welcomed.

      • Hi Anon, many Thanks! not at all. I love this site as everyone can contribute their own experience and opinion which will help other people in some way.

        One more advice, watch out some Chinese people, normally around their sixties. They are notorious for bad behaviour. Their generation suffered a long term shortage in Economy. And when they were supposed to be at school, Cultural revolution started, school dismantled … Therefore queue jumping, rude…

        • I find that part of the charm of the place to be honest. Queue jumping pensioners are not a Chinese phenomenon either!

    • I think ones travel experience in China can very much depend on his/her expectation, interests in Chinese history and culture, and how well someone can handle ‘first world problems’ – it obviously isn’t and will never be everyone’s favourite destination. For those who enjoyed their trips in China, I would totally recommend you to explore further in the western regions. Sichuan is a good starting point for a balance between cultural and landscape heritages (and pandas!), whilst Tibet, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Yunnan all offer absolutely spectacular natural landscapes.

      Back to this deal, it is undoubtedly the best value ex-LON redemption out there. Admittedly Air China F won’t get you a ME3-type luxury experience, but it does offer a hard product superior to CW with an excellent safety record. As Rob said you don’t even have to visit China with this flight instead combining it with cheap Avios redemption for JAL flights to Japan, with the flexibility to squeeze in a couple of days in Beijing under the 72hr TWOV rule.

  4. pointsarb says:

    O/T sorry. Does anyone know an easy way to transfer in to Marriott points from a hotel/air partner? I tried looking this up but couldn’t see a way for a UK resident to transfer in to top up an existing Marriott rewards account? I’ll have to exclude SPG as I’m already maxed out there in points purchases (I think there is a 30k limit per year and so I’m maxed out this year?). I need to find 22k Marriott points pronto for a Xmas hotel redemption in Mexico!

    Thanks in advance for any replies.


  5. Hi, I have been reading this great blog for a while and thank you for whoever is contributing to it. As a Chinese student studying in U.K., I fly U.K.-China many times- and I would avoid Air China if I can; I usually fly CX or BA to HK, much better service and courtesy than Chinese Airlines. It’s interesting to see comments on China itself, however, judging on Chinese people behaviour in public. I would say that China is a country with huge population, and only part of them had lifted from
    Poverty and started to realised courtesy. It would take a long time for a hole nation to transform. Even in the most civilised countries, UK or US there are people who are rude or even dangerous in public: massshootings in US or drunk people harrsaing pedestrians in U.K.. All I ask is you should not judge China only based on what you see in media or only one trip to a small part of China. In china there are many prosperous cities that you will see Chinese people are kind and approachable, such as Shanghai, HK or Guangzhou. I can’t comment on food though-everybody has their own taste and even I would not like the food in northern China. Too spicy for a kid growing up from south.

  6. I thought Shanghai was a fantastic place to visit, found the locals very accommodating although culturally very different to westerners.

    I also think it’s a bit off to judge people who have had historically appaling living standards by our own.

    We all may find ourselves lacking in manners if we grew up in China 20 years ago. Not an excuse for bad behaviour but it’s not particularly constructive just to blanket an entire population of a country with a single prejudice.

  7. How is the redemption “good value” there are 550 pounds to pay in addition to the points.

    The redemptions on Japan Airlines are what I would term good value. Only the airport tax to pay. Some of my internal flights were free (only avios points needed). I had to make a 1 euro donation to charity to book them via the BA website since it could not handle “free” flights (luckily to an excellent HFP article explained this workaround).

    • Top line – ‘best redemption from the U.K.’.

    • Which article was that? I’m after a trip to Japan.

      • It’s not about ‘to’ Japan (although you might want to check the taxes on JAL flights which are not starting in the UK). Internal Japanese flights literally have no taxes or charges. In fact, since ba.com cannot handle such a booking, you need to add a £1 charity donation to the ticket so there is something for the credit card to process. There is an article on this on here if you search.

      • Who invited this rude dude to the party…

  8. Did this route using air miles last month and was pleasantly surprised. Food with better than virgins upper class, staff were good and beds huge. Overall by far best 75k miles spent

  9. I’ve got about 60k VS miles and most of it was from train travel! So perhaps next year I’ll tip it over the 75k by getting a VS Amex and give this a shot.

  10. I have just booked a one-way flight in First Class with Japan Airlines from Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda in August 2017 (via the BA site) for 120,000 Avios plus £193 taxes/fees. The BA options were charging over £300 in taxes just for Club! On the JAL website the price of the flight is currently £9450 (although I know that one way flights are always insanely priced) but I am over the moon after researching JAL’s levels of service. It will be my first ever First Class flight – I can’t wait!

  11. Is there also a one way price or can this award only be booked as a return flight ?