Qatar Business Class

Your last chance to book Virgin’s best value redemption – Air China to Beijing

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There is one redemption opportunity via a UK frequent flyer programme which – in terms of flights departing the UK – is head and shoulders about the rest in terms of value.

Even more amazingly, availability for this redemption is very easy to find.

The bad news is that this redemption will cease to be a bargain on 1st MayYou have only three days to book if you want to take advantage.


Virgin Atlantic is not in a major airline alliance, despite Delta Air Lines – a core plank of the SkyTeam alliance – being a 49% shareholder.

Despite that, the airline does have a number of airline partners with whom you can earn and redeem Flying Club miles.  These include :

  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • SAS (earning only)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

… plus of course Delta.

One of these partners offers outstanding value – Air China.


You can fly First Class from London to Beijing on Air China for just 75,000 Virgin Flying Club miles return.  Business Class is just 63,000 miles, although you’d be silly not to pay the extra 12,000 miles if you can.  The tax is around £500 return.

There are two caveats to the Air China deal, but these are minor:

You can only book London to Beijing.  No other routes are possible, no add-on connections are possible.

You can only book return flights (edit: this seems to have changed as the comments say recent one-way bookings have been made)

One of our readers recently flew this route in Business Class on Air China and we published his flight review here.

This flight stops being a great deal on Tuesday

From 1st May, Virgin Atlantic is repricing this award to bring it in line with its own redemptions. 

I am guessing that this is also driven by the introduction of KLM and Air France redemption availability, which should be bookable via Flying Club within the next 12 months once the new Virgin / Delta / KLM / Air France joint venture has Government approval.

This is how the pricing will change from Tuesday.  I must admit I did a double-take:

Air China London to Beijing redemption pricing:

Economy – today: 56,000 miles; from 1st May: 56,000 miles

Business – today: 63,000 miles; from 1st May: 135,000 miles

First – today: 75,000 miles; from 1st May:  200,000 miles

These are not modest changes, to put it mildly.  If you were interested in redeeming on this route, you should obviously be getting on the telephone to Virgin Atlantic before Monday night.

To put this redemption in context, British Airways Executive Club charges 170,000 Avios (off-peak) or 200,000 Avios (peak) plus £550 for London to Beijing in First Class.  Even if you have a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL better value – before Monday night – to use 150,000 Flying Club miles for two people.

How to book this flight

You can check availability online.  The easiest place to look is the United Airlines website.  United lets you search for redemption availability even if you don’t have a United MileagePlus account – you don’t even need to log in.

If you can see ‘First Class Saver’ space showing for Air China, Virgin Flying Club should be able to book it.

To maximise your miles when paying, your best bet is one of the two Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cards.  These earn double miles (3 per £1 on the paid card or 1.5 per £1 on the free card) when you book at or via Virgin Holidays.  Another option is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which offers double points – 2 per £1 – when you book flight tickets directly with an airline.

How can I get any extra miles I need?

There are three ways of getting the miles you need before Monday evening.  Remember that none of these methods is guaranteed but I would expect them to work:

Transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic (1:1) – this is usually INSTANTANEOUS

Transfer Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Atlantic (2:5) – this usually happens overnight

Buy Virgin Atlantic miles – I am not sure of the time frame but it should take under 24 hours

Be careful when picking your dates.  Whilst your booking is cancellable and refundable, I doubt that you would be able to change the date without it being repriced at the new higher rates.  I am not saying that it is impossible, since the Virgin Atlantic call centre team are generally very amenable, but you should certainly not expect it.


It is sad to see this excellent deal go away.  If you had been thinking of booking it, I recommend getting your diary out and then getting on the telephone to Virgin Atlantic ASAP.

You can find out more about the Virgin / Air China partnership 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.)

Important dates for your diary - offers about to close which you shouldn't miss (April 2018)
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  1. Remember if you are planning on visiting China you will need a visa. Based on some of the above comments, IF in the next 2 years the cost of the visa goes up, dont blame me!

    • Only if you stay in Beijing/China over 144 hours (and I don’t know why you would want to do that!). Hop over to Japan and back again, for 20K Avios plus about £30.

      • Or if you want to go outside Beijing and explore the country. It would be a waste to go all the way to China and only see Beijing (unless you’re just transiting)

      • Jon Arnold says:

        JPa, I did a similar thing last year; I got a144 hour free visa on arrival then went onwards to Seoul. Applying for a normal tourist visa for China is a labourious and expensive process (that was my experience from a coupe of years ago and prices have gone up further since then and it’s now about £175 if you have it posted using the service)

      • Alex W says:

        Having spent around 2 months in China in total I think it’s a great place to visit and will definitely go again at some point.

  2. Gareth Morgan says:

    Glad I booked a June flight in 1st a couple of weeks ago. My worry now is what happens if Air China cancel the booking, as is not uncommon according to some FlyerTalk posts. Will they shift dates or will I have to rebook at new rates?

  3. Rob, when you says the booking is cancellable and refundable, do you mean both the miles and the hefty taxes will be refunded or just the miles?

  4. From what I could read excellent deal for no. of points but, now it is in parity, why bother? Doesn’t look that amazing to be burning my points for and I can only guess empty seats now.

  5. The_real_a says:

    You CAN book one way. I have done this.

  6. harbhajan onetwothree says:

    I cannot do the transfer of amex MR to virgin atlantic?
    i put three zeros, four zeros and no zeros before it and i am still unable to do the transfer..
    what is going on with these people..

    • This has been a problem with Amex for years and is the same with transfers to hotels. When it does not work online, I have to call them and they eventually get the target account number on to my Amex account. I have asked them to fix it many times and even formerly complained once, hoping this would result in action, but all I got was a standard letter back, adding that if dissatisfied, should complain to the FSA!
      Sometimes Amex Customer Service are very good, but it seems that complaints about website / IT are fruitless.

  7. Is there a way to book for September 2019?

  8. Can ANA redemptions be done one way?

  9. Dylan jobson says:

    I read this article from Beijing, first leg of this brilliant deal in First was flown last week, heading back to London on Monday. Sad to see this go as First on CA was great. Definitely recommend. Options to use the senator lounge in T2 or the United First lounge. Both great and then a very comfortable bed for the night flight to Beijing. Next up NH to Tokyo!

  10. It seems that United only show Air China redemptions up till March 2019. Are April 2019 fares available/ any idea how to see them?

    Also, anyone else having problems finding any Air China flights with First Saver availability? They only seem to show business saver as being available.

  11. Rob – it isn’t true (certainly in practice) that you can only book return flights. I have happily booked a one way from London to Beijing in first.

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