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Virgin Atlantic launching ‘hand baggage only’ and ‘Economy Delight’ fares – what do you get?

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Not long ago we wrote about BA’s new ‘hand baggage only’ fares on transatlantic flights starting in April.

Passengers will have the choice between the regular Economy fare and the newly introduced Basic Economy fare which does not include hold luggage and seat selection.

Now Virgin Atlantic has also announced changes to its Economy fares as part of a multi million pounds investment in their Eonomy product.  These fares will launch in ‘Spring 2018’.

Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website here.

Virgin Atlantic 747

Like BA, Virgin Atlantic will offer a hand luggage only fare but will also give passengers the option to choose a seat with extra legroom.

The three new Economy experiences are called Economy Light, Economy Classic and Economy Delight.  These generally match what is offered by Delta, Virgin’s 49% shareholder:

Economy Light: Hand Baggage Only fare with seats assigned at check-in, cannot be upgraded to Premium Economy with miles

Economy Classic: Current Economy fare with the ability to pre-select seats and with checked luggage included, can be upgraded to Premium Economy with miles

Economy Delight: Extra legroom (34″ pitch), free seat selection at any time, priority check-in and priority boarding, can be upgraded to Premium Economy with miles

You can only upgrade to Premium Economy if Virgin Flying Club is offering miles redemption seats in that cabin.  It is not an automatic right for anyone who has enough miles.

Economy Light could be risky for anyone not travelling alone as you could be separated at check-in and placed in middle seats in different parts of the cabin.  Families have more protection as a child must be sat with one parent under CAA rules.  A family group of two (parent and child) is guaranteed to be kept together.

This is how the three fares compare (click to expand):

virgin atlantic new economy experience

Other changes include the addition of USB charging points to every seat on every aircraft and access to high speed WiFi on every route (Virgin will apparently be the first European airline to have wi-fi on 100% of its fleet by the end of 2018).

Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic, said:

“We’re unveiling the biggest change to our Economy cabin in over a decade – launching three new ways to fly, and a host of innovations on the ground and in the air as part of a wider £300 million investment in our customers. We know that one size doesn’t fit all, and from spring our customers can afford to be choosy and still travel in the UK’s leading economy cabin.

The ‘host of innovations on the ground’ include automated bag drop kiosks at London Gatwick and London Heathrow.  Gatwick will get four kiosks this Summer and Heathrow will follow with 18 kiosks this Winter.

That Virgin Atlantic would introduce a hand baggage only fare on long-haul flights was just a matter of time. You can’t blame them.

Virgin Atlantic Economy Delight

With Norwegian leading the way in lowering headline fares by charging extra for luggage, seat selection and food, the legacy carriers had to follow in some way.  You can lose a lot of business if you don’t appear at or near the top of Expedia’s flight search results and that means unbundling your product to reduce the headline price.  Virgin and BA will still offer more for free with their ‘hand baggage only’ fares than Norwegian or Primera (the latter has extortionate meal prices for example).

Economy Delight, pictured above, sounds like a good option if your budget doesn’t stretch to fly in Premium Economy but a bit more legroom and priority check-in and boarding would be welcome.

But is this fare really new?  Here is what you can currently find on the Virgin Atlantic website:

‘A touch more space can make miles of difference to your journey. With up to 31″ seat pitch our seats are designed to be more than comfortable, but an extra few inches of space will make your trip feel even more luxurious, with up to 5″ more room*. It can also be useful if you are travelling with small children, giving them a bit of wiggle room. Extra legroom seats are available from only £40/$55 one way. And don’t forget – if you’re a Flying Club Gold member, you can choose an Extra legroom seat free of charge.’

So Economy Delight looks like a rebranding of what used to cost you from £40 extra each-way with some extra perks added like premium check-in and priority boarding.

It does look, however, as if Virgin Atlantic will add a number of seats with more legroom on some aircraft.  Where other airlines are trying to squeeze in more seats by removing toilets and reducing seat pitch as seen with the change to the BA 777 fleet, Virgin Atlantic is trying to go a different route.  The B787 fleet – should Rolls Royce ever get the engines fixed – will be losing six economy seats to make room for more Delight seats.

It will be interesting to see how much more passengers will have to pay to fly Economy Delight rather than Economy Classic and how it compares to the current ‘from £40 each-way’ upgrade price, which does not include premium check-in or priority boarding.

You can find full details of the changes on the Virgin Atlantic website here.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (June 2024)

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 18,000 Virgin Points and the free card has a bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

3,000 bonus points, no fee and 1 point for every £1 you spend 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 – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 40,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 40,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (105)

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

  • Ammar says:

    OT – I opened a Virgin Money ISA Stocks & Share in on 11/10/17 with the first payment made on 24/10/17 and subsequently have made £100 payments monthly, my 6th payment will be on 24/3/18. I cannot recall the T&C whether if you cancel after the 6th payment, the miles that i got as part of the promotion are safe?

  • Jonathan says:

    Economy Delight combines well with an Amex Plat for those without status.

  • Frenske says:

    OT but Virgin Atlantic related. The option to transfer AmEx Membership Reward point to Virgin miles has disappeared from my list!? Anybody else has the same, I’ve transferred some points ~2 weeks ago.

    • Rob says:

      Hmmm, it has disappeared. I will chase.

      EDIT: Is only temporary, will be back later. Emirates and Delta are also down – not coincidentally these are the 3 programmes where transfers are instant.

  • Umba says:

    Noticed that a LHR-LAX economy return at the end of June has gone up by £80 overnight as the website moved from the old regime to Economy Classic with no Economy Light seats for sale on the dates selected.

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

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