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