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’.
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):
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.
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.
(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.)