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Understanding the Virgin Flying Club changes – Part 2, spending

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

I am looking at the changes in detail across two articles.  Part 1, which looked at changes to earning rates at Virgin Flying Club, is here.  

Virgin Atlantic 787

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)

In Part 1 of this article (click here) I looked at changed to earning miles and tier points when flying Virgin Atlantic.

Today, I want to look at the changes to how you spend your miles.

Spending changes

Change 1: NO CHANGE to partner redemptions, either airline or non-airline

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first.  The miles required for redemptions on partner airlines or for non-airline partners are not changing.

This means that popular options such as transferring miles to IHG Rewards Club in order to earn IHG status will remain open.

The option to use 1.2 million miles for a week on Necker Island will also remain.  Whilst you might think this is out of reach, a Gold member flying to San Francisco each month on a flexible Upper Class ticket would now be able to do this after just 18 months.  It is also surprisingly good value given the cash cost of Necker Island holidays.

Virgin Atlantic 350

Change 2:  Peak and off-peak pricing introduced

Virgin Atlantic is following British Airways in introducing peak and off-peak redemption pricing.

At present, this only appears to apply to redemptions on Virgin and not on partners.

Here are the peak dates for 2017:

31st March – 18th April

22nd June – 6th September

13th December – 3rd January 2018

I find this approach a bit odd to be honest, for three reasons:

Peak dates are linked to UK school holidays, when business travel is low and Virgin has plenty of premium seats going spare – or at least not being sold for the usual high prices.  Why charge more for redemptions at such periods?

For members outside the UK, with different school holiday patterns, the choice of dates seems even odder.  At least – unlike Avios – half-term holidays have not been blocked.  British Airways Executive Club members outside the UK can’t understand why random weeks in February and October are charged at a higher rate.

It doesn’t take into account the seasonality of the destination.  Dubai in August, with its 50 degree heat, is not exactly a popular tourist option but you will pay the peak price.  Barbados in February, peak season, is charged at an off-peak price.

Change 3:  A new reward chart

This is key table that most people are looking for (click to enlarge):


Not sure why the figures are in $ ……

Here is the current chart (click to enlarge – apologies for blurring – or click here to read it online):

Virgin Flying Club redemption chart

The changes are relatively clear:

At off-peak times, the cost of Economy redemptions is cut sharply.  New York drops from 35,000 miles to 20,000 miles for example.  I would caveat that with two points:

Virgin previously ran regular mileage sales which brought down Economy redemptions to roughly these levels, so it isn’t new to be able to fly to New York for circa 20,000 miles

You still need to pay full taxes and charges

The requirement to pay full taxes means that some Economy redemptions will remain a bad deal.  However, others will work well.  I’m pretty sure that, say, Barbados in the February prime tourist season will work out nicely even after you’ve added taxes and charges.

Some Premium Economy redemptions are cut and these are the new ‘sweet spot’

New York in Premium Economy was 55,000 miles at all times.  It remains 55,000 miles on peak dates but is down to just 35,000 miles off-peak.  Similarly, Hong Kong looks like a steal.  It was 80,000 miles return but that has come down to 65,000 miles peak and 45,000 miles off-peak.

The snag here is availability.  Premium Economy is a small cabin so you will never find huge amounts of seats offered up for miles.

Upper Class takes the biggest hit but the changes are not uniform.  For example:

New York – was 80,000 miles return, now 115,000 / 95,000

San Francisco – was 100,000 miles return, now 155,000 / 135,000

Orlando – was 100,000 miles return, now 115,000 / 95,000 (so cheaper off-peak)

Hong Kong – was 120,000 miles return, now 135,000 / 115,000 (so cheaper off-peak)

Dubai – was 80,000 miles return, now 95,000 / 75,000 (so cheaper off-peak)

Delhi – was 100,000 miles return, now 95,000 / 75,000 (cheaper at all times)

Johannesburg – was 100,000 miles return, now 135,000 / 115,000

In general, the US routes have got more expensive whilst other routes have fared better but there exceptions to both of those statements.

These changes do not take effect until 16th January 2017.  You can book at the old rates until then.

Change 4:  New ‘Miles Plus Money’ options – and they now earn miles

‘Miles Plus Money’ is being simplified and rolled out more widely.

You can’t argue with this one – for a lot of people it will be valuable even though the value per mile is ‘low but not terrible’.

You can redeem as many miles as you want (minimum 3,000) for 0.6p per mile off a Virgin Atlantic cash ticket.  You can even pay the taxes this way so your flight is genuinely free.

This creates some interesting maths around partner conversions.  1 Tesco Clubcard point is therefore worth 1.5p off a Virgin Atlantic flight, for example.  This is pretty poor at the standard rate, but a decent conversion bonus would make a difference.

For the first time, ‘Miles Plus Money’ tickets will now be treated as ‘normal’ cash tickets and will earn miles and tier points back.

Change 5:  New upgrade costs

Finally, we have changes to the way that upgrades are charged.

The biggest hit is the cost of moving from Premium Economy ‘S’ Class to Upper Class which is currently relatively nominal.  Some people currently pay the extra for ‘S’ over ‘K’ in order to be able to upgrade due to the low number of miles needed – I doubt this will continue.

You can upgrade FLEXIBLE economy tickets to Upper Class for 75% of the cost of an Upper Class redemption or to Premium Economy for 50% of the cost of a Premium Economy redemption.  Given that flexible economy tickets are expensive in the first place, this does not appear to offer great value.

You can upgrade FLEXIBLE Premium Economy tickets (not K class) to Upper Class for 50% of the cost of an Upper Class redemption.  This is no longer as good as a deal as it is at present.

Remember that upgrades require reward availability to be there for the class you want to move into.

Again, these rates come into force from 16th January.


Whilst this article only looks at the changes to spending your miles, you can only look at it in isolation if all of your miles come via Tesco or credit card spend.  People who earn most of their miles in the air need to look at the changes to their earning and burning before they decide if they are better or worse off.  It even varies by which routes you tend to redeem on.

There is no doubt that redemptions to the US West Coast in Upper Class have been hit hard – and it is on a 12 hour flight like that where you would be most likely to want an Upper Class flat bed.

Other routes do better.  I think most people would be happy with Premium Economy for a day flight to New York, for example, and you can’t quibble with 35,000 miles.  I doubt you will ever find more than a couple of PE seats opened up for miles, though, so this is unlikely to benefit a family.

It was only a matter of time before Virgin moved Flying Club more in line with the new Avios reward charts.  If I had to sum up the changes in one phrase, I would say ‘could have been worse’.

If you missed part one of this article on changes to Virgin Flying Club earning rates, you can go back and read it here.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (August 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 Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

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

Virgin Rewards credit card

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 Amex Gold

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.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel 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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

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 (52)

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

  • Ian says:

    One way from JFK-LHR or JFK-MAN for 10,000 miles isn’t bad, with the taxes and fees only being $156.90.

    • Choons says:

      But didn’t Air Berlin offer redemptions with just a GBP3 charge, albeit with a higher points charge and a flight to Germany rather than the UK? Depending on the day it might be cheaper with Norwegian to get back to the UK

      • Ian says:

        20,000 Avios and $5.60 on airberlin JFK-DUS or JFK-TXL vs 10,000 miles and $156.90 on Virgin JFK-LHR/MAN

    • Charlie says:

      HKG to LHR one way would be 12500 miles in economy off peak, with charges of about £10. Brilliant value.

  • simon says:

    O/T Sadly anyone has booked the cheap Qatar R class fares from UK/EX EU , will now not be earning either tier points or Avios , you can still post to AA/EY or QR directly

  • Andi says:

    have Virgin really changed the Reward Seat search from a very useful page where you can see availability each day in each class after an unsuccessful search to a search that simply returns a ‘Yes or No’ with no information on each day, meaning you need to keep putting in dates until you find what you need?

  • Justin Laur says:

    Absolutely hating the new website, awful to search for anything. Also, have the surcharges for a one way upper class flight from Atlanta to LHR gone from about $150 to $450?!?! CRAZY!!

    • Marco says:

      Agreed – new VA website is awful… simply impossible now to search for reward flights!!!

  • Peter Lord says:

    Wonder if anybody could tell me whether I could move Avios points to Virgin

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

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