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

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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.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  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.)

Comments (17)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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.

    • John says:

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

      • Rich says:

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

        • John says:

          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.

  • Alan says:

    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%.

  • 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?


This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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