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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)

  • vand says:

    the Virgin images are a little misleading – economy classic looks like food is the perk. this is in included in basic. then delight has been shot to look like wider seats (3 behind in classic, and then ohh 2 across in delight!) also not the case.

  • Chris Palmer says:

    OT: If I (AMEX Platinum) refer a friend for the AMEX SPG (they’ve never had it before), and they already have the AMEX Platinum, will I receive the 18k refer bonus? The Terms don’t suggest otherwise, but perhaps someone with experience may be able to help? Thanks.

  • Brian says:

    OT – my apologies. I’m looking at flights in J from NYC to VIE. On the Iberia site, I’m quoted 56,000 Avios and £130 for Business to LHR and Economy from LHR to VIE. On Avios/BA, it’s 65,000 plus £360 for Business all the way. Does anybody know why there is such a discrepancy in the taxes part (I thought this was only true on Iberia metal) and, more importantly, whether I can still cancel the flights if I book via Iberia?

    In an earlier article I found via Google, Rob said that you can’t cancel BA flights booked via Iberia, but the Iberia site says you can, so I don’t know if the situation has changed since the earlier article.

    Many thanks!

    • Rob says:

      Cancellation rule has changed for BA but not for other oneworld partners. Can’t explain the taxes UNLESS it is something to do with the transatlantic JV treating all flights as IB even if not?

  • LUCIE K says:

    Could someone please explain how you can get 18,000 points for referring Spg Card From Holding Platinum card ?
    Is this also possible if you have held the card before if its longer than 6 months ago.

    I thought you normally get 5,000 Spg points for this referral.

    • Roger says:

      just refer as normal platinum
      the applicant can switch to SPG while applying and you do get the same 18000 MR bonus.

      • LUCIE K says:

        Does this work if you have held the card before in my case 8 months ago . My partner has Plat and so he would refer me .

        Thanks in advance

        • Chris Palmer says:

          After 6 months of cancelling you become eligible again for the sign up bonus.

  • Paul says:

    “Other changes […] 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).”

    This has already happened, in September 2017!

  • LUCIE K says:

    Sorry for so many questions fairly new to this .

    Does it also apply if we do the same but apply for Ba Premium card Not SPG card .

    I.e 18,000 MR points for referral from Platinum card but then apply for Ba Prem Card.

  • LUCIE K says:

    Is self Referral allowed By Amex ?

    • Mikeact says:

      One for Rob as I don’t know what the answer is, but everyday the majority of comments and questions are always centred around Amex and referrals….what can and cannot be done, and numerous ‘what ifs?’ Maybe a dedicated daily topic, (one of the three perhaps), dedicated to this subject ?

      • Rob says:

        I cannot publicly write about much of this because it would breach the terms of my FCA licence.

        • Mikeact says:

          Fair enough, but there is obviously a huge amount of uncertainty around this subject which generates a lot of overlapping questions every day. No easy answer I guess, but gets a little frustrating at times, particularly when folks can’t be bothered to at least try and do a search or plough through previous comments/answers.

        • Leo says:

          Maybe if there was always a Bits article and people could be nudged to use that for OTs it would help a bit.

  • David says:

    Another group of passengers get priority check in and boarding? Surely there must be more priority people now than not!?