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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.

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.

Virgin Atlantic economy light

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.

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).

Virgin Atlantic Economy Delight

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.

(We also don’t know if Virgin Flying Club Gold members will still be able to get a free guaranteed upgrade to Economy Delight as you would at present.)

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 Atlantic miles from UK credit cards

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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  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 (106)

  • Dave Barron says:

    OT as no “Bits” and sorry in advance if already posted.

    My BA Amex free card has a Hilton offer showing this morning – spend £250 get £50 back before 11/06/18.

    • KevMc says:

      It might be worth waiting until next week to starts making bookings. According to LL, they are due to start a 35% flash sale on Tuesday:

      There’s Americas offer that is valid for stays March 25 – September 9, Europe/Middle East/Africa Weekends offer valid for stays March 16 – August 31, and Southeast Asia/Australasia offer valid for stays March 18 – December 31, 2018.

    • johnny_c-l says:

      I have the Hilton offer too this morning….on my SPG card!

      • Roger says:

        Offer valid on payment at checkout only and excludes online payments!
        Book and Stay by 11 June 2018

        • KevMc says:

          It said that last time, but as long as you make an advanced purchase booking (or stay and pay on check out before the offer ends), then it still works.

          I think that when you book online, the booking is sent to the hotel itself, and they process the payment at the property.

          Cumulative spend has always worked in the past as well.

        • Tom1 says:

          2 questions if I may….
          1) if making an advance purchase for a hotel not listed, is it possible that also triggers the amex spend? Who charges the card – Hilton directly, or the hotel?

          2) if I save this offer on my amex gold, and then upgrade to platinum, do the offers get carried over? (Un related to q1).


        • Louise says:

          Offers port from
          Gold to Plat in my experience

      • Paul says:

        +1 ! very surprising

      • Louise says:

        I did a booking last time for a hotel not on the list and no credit posted

    • Matthew Brown says:

      Thanks for this just got refunded from my platinum and re-billed to my BA at checkout this morning!

    • KP says:

      I have three Amexs and it shows on one only. Shame.

    • Cat says:

      I was going to cancel my Platinum this weekend to get the pro rata refund. The £50 off Hilton is showing on my Platinum only. Does anyone know if I am likely to be able to cancel the card and get the saved offer transferred to my BA Amex? I’m probably not going to do any Hilton bookings until the next promotion starts (in May?), and I know what it is.

      BTW – I also have a Berry Bros £20 back on a £100 spend on my Platinum. I know it’s not as huge a discount as you can often get with other companies, but if you like fine wine, they’re fantastic!

  • KevMc says:

    O/T I transferred 1,000 MR to Iberia last week after receiving the 20% bonus email, as a test, despite the T’s & C’s stating it was valid for Spanish American Express cards only…I have today received a 200 point bonus, so it looks like Iberia’s IT system isn’t smart enough to know he difference.

    I’ve ow just transferred a large chunk of my remaining MR ahead a redemption I’m making next month.

    • The Original Nick says:

      KevMc, did you already have your IB account linked /registered to your MR account when you made the transfer?

      • KevMc says:

        Yes, I had sent 1,000 about a year ago when I first opened my Iberia account in order to validate it, so not sure if the email was targeted towards anyone who had previously made an MR redemption to Iberia or if they just sent it out to anyone with an IB account

    • Scott says:

      Can anyone advise if there’s any risk in transferring my full MR balance (which I would be converting to Avios anyway.) As far as I know I’m free to move them between Iberia and BA at will, just seeking confirmation before I do it.

      • KevMc says:

        Yes, you can move them freely, assuming your Iberia account has been active for at least 90 days

  • JP says:

    What will happen to people who already have some seats booked in economy? Will our fares become classic or delight?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Classic unless you have paid the extra £40 for a seat with more legroom?

      • JP says:

        I haven’t booked seats yet. So, if I book extra legroom seats then will I get priority boarding and priority check-in?

  • Manu says:


    I’m having trouble downgrading my BAPP Amex. If I cancel it, can my partner use her gold Amex to pay for the redemption?
    Thanks in advance and sorry if this has been asked before!

  • Hardy says:

    When are they coming up with credit cards? There is literally no good credit cards in the UK, everything has been pulled. There should be more competiton in the card industry. Its appalling here.

  • Jenny McArdle says:

    If booking an economy reward flight (terrible redemption value, I know), I wonder which catergory you will be allocated?

    • Lumma says:

      Flying out in upper and flying back in economy isn’t a bad value redemption if you don’t have a huge amount of virgin miles. London-New York is 57500 miles and £430 in taxes off peak (10000 miles and £60 more than the one way in upper). Economy one way from Hong Kong is also very good value, so it’s definitely not something to rule out

      • Rob says:

        Day flights to the US East Coast are probably about as good as long haul economy gets – short and daylight hours.

        • Lumma says:

          Just checked economy to New York and upper class back home is 57500 and £360 in taxes which seems decent value although you’re missing out on the clubhouse at Heathrow.

          The one I’m currently considering is Delhi in upper class and back in economy. 47500 miles and £399 taxes. Outbound flight is a late evening departure, so can make the most of the lounge and get s decent sleep on the plane. (I’m currently on 48500 virgin miles)

    • Rob says:

      Classic I imagine.

    • Alan says:

      Given that you are currently allocated the mid-range economy ticket if you use Virgin miles on a Delta plane then I would assume that Virgin would allocate the “Classic” tickets for economy. Don’t see why they would be any different.

      What will be interesting is whether they increase their “Fees and taxes” on the redemption seats as you will be able to get “Free” seat booking (which you currently don’t get on Virgin economy)

      It would be nice if our current Virgin economy redemption seats to New York would become eligible for the free seat allocation but, somehow, I doubt it.

  • Paul says:

    £300 million investment. What utter tosh!

    Like BA these figures get weirded about with absolutely nothing substantial behind them. If that how much some USB charging points cost they got ripped off. Virgin are nothing more than BA lite.

  • Mark says:

    Given Virgin are now offering ‘premium’ check in for economy delight surely only a matter of time before we see this with BA WTP? Rob any insight?