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What will we see from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in 2019?

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What can we expect to see from British Airways / Avios and Virgin Atlantic / Flying Club in 2019?  I’m not into predictions, but the lead-time in this business is so long that we usually have a good idea of what is coming down the line.

What will British Airways deliver in 2019?

The big event in 2019 is likely to be the launch of the new Club World seat.

BA isn’t in a rush, however.  It will first appear on the new A350 aircraft arriving from mid-year, but only four of these will be in service by next Christmas.  As they have no First Class, you won’t be seeing them on ‘prime’ routes like New York either.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

The Boeing 777 fleet will be retrofitted but, again, this is a slow process.  Two aircraft are promised by next Christmas.  The full process is expected to take ….. and I kid you not ….. four years.  Even then, it is not certain that the A380 fleet will be included and it is very unlikely to go onto the Boeing 747 fleet as retirement looms.

All we know as a fact is that all seats will have direct aisle access and that the TV will be fixed in place (ie you can’t fold it away, it will sat in front of your nose for the full flight).  I have a sneaky feeling BA is simply going to use a version of the existing Iberia seatwhich I reviewed on the A350 here – which is perfectly acceptable.  It’s not Qsuite, but it is better than we have.

You can also look forward to BA’s 100th birthday celebrations (although nothing discussed so far seems exciting), some updates to the ‘soft product’ in First Class and World Traveller Plus (ie food, blankets etc), continued roll-out of wi-fi (I am still to get on a BA flight which has it) and new uniforms.

If IAG, BA’s parent, manages to acquire Flybe or Norwegian Air then there will be a lot more going on, of course.

In terms of Avios, we know that a shake-up has been approved by BA and is presumably just waiting for the IT to be done.  This means 2019 looks safe, and potentially 2020 too 🙂  If I was asked to guess, I would expect:

a move to revenue based earning for BA flights, although this is actually far more complex than the current model because it doesn’t work on codeshares, partner flights or trips containing multiple airlines.

some merging of the way cash and Avios flights are offered, especially as ‘Part Pay With Avios’ and ‘Pay With Avios and Money’ are hugely confusing.  The Etihad Guest system is an interesting model, where you can either book a standard reward at fixed pricing or an ‘anytime’ reward at a points price driven by the current cash price.

My Avios Group contacts are fairly sanguine, so let’s see.  On the earning front, there are some interesting things in the pipeline which I can’t discuss but which will be interesting.

Moving on to Virgin Atlantic ……

As with BA, the big story for 2019 is the new Upper Class seat coming on the A350 aircraft.

I have zero inside information, although the fact that everyone is being very tight lipped implies a major change.  My view is that the current layout, which never caught on with the rest of the industry, has had its day.

The big question is whether Virgin Atlantic goes for something ‘standard’ such as the ‘cubby hole’ seats adopted by Finnair, Aer Lingus, Iberia etc or pushes the boat out and goes for something like the Qatar Airways Qsuite, where each seat is a mini-suite with a sliding door.

I have seen no discussion on whether this new seat will be rolled out to existing aircraft.  Until the Boeing 787 engine issues are fixed, I doubt Virgin has the ability to take additional planes out of service for long periods.

The route network is likely to see further tweaks.  Dubai ends in March but there are rumours of Tel Aviv coming.  Virgin owns various slots at Heathrow which are leased out so it is not as constrained as it likes to imply.  It is possible there are additional long-haul routes eastwards which would make good connecting opportunities for incoming US passengers.

2019 will also be a big year for Virgin Flying Club.  From April, your miles will be the property of the new Virgin Group Loyalty Company (VGLC), not Virgin Atlantic.  VGLC is a new loyalty company which will work across many Virgin Group investments to help you earn and redeem miles.

Virgin Flying Club itself will remain part of the airline in the same way that British Airways Executive Club is part of BA and buys Avios from Avios Group when you travel.

This matters, because the two companies will soon have different shareholders.  VGLC will be buying reward seats for cash from Virgin Atlantic and, although I am told availability should not change, this is unlikely to hold.

My best guess is that VGLC will get a fixed number of seats per flight from the airline at a fixed price, to allow it to continue to offer fixed price redemptions.  Anything beyond that will require the airline to be willing to sell them cheaply to VGLC which is unlikely on peak flights.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the other massive development will be the integration of KLM and Air France into Flying Club.  They will be both earning and redemption partners, and given the devaluations at Flying Blue recently I can imagine a lot of UK KLM flyers switching schemes.  This is part of the process which will see Air France KLM take a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic and join their transatlantic joint venture with Delta.

As with BA, the potential acquisition of Flybe could be the wild card event of the year.

Whatever happens, Head for Points will keep you in the loop.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points 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 Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (114)

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

  • Sorin says:

    My guess would be that the Virgin A350 seat will match what Delta has on their A350, which would make for a somewhat consistent westbound Business product.

  • Thywillbedone says:

    I thought there was likely to be an Avios devaluation at the back end of this year (2018)? Do you mean you don’t expect one in the coming year?


    • GeoffGeoff says:

      There certainly has been an Avios devaluation. They increased the charges on long haul redemptions by about £100 per return fan flight.

      • TripRep says:

        Geoff, increased from what amount in which class?

        I recently paid £200 in charges for CE/CW rtn flights.

        • GeoffGeoff says:

          Return redemption flight in CW to North America now costs around £650 instead of £550. There seem to have been similar increases to many / all long haul destinations ex-LON. However you have to check each route individually as there is no published table of charges.

          Not sure where £200 could apply in CW? Maybe one of the short CW routes?

        • Anna says:

          I could only see this applying to one of the few routes where BA use a long haul aircraft for a RFS journey (some Madrid and Moscow flights IIRC).

    • Rob says:

      If they can sort the IT out, it will happen. But this is BA ….

      • Anna says:

        It’s so annoying as the amount of spending required to earn avios hasn’t changed! Hey ho, better get busy with the Platinum referrals from tomorrow…

  • Scallder says:

    AF/KLM are taking a 31% ownership I thought (leaving Branson with 20%)?


    “In terms of Avios, we know that a shake-up has been approved by BA and is presumably just waiting for the IT to be done. This means 2019 looks safe, and potentially 2020 too 🙂 ”

    Rob, if the shake up has been approved (in fact, we were all anticipating the changes back in March…) why are you confident 2019 and possibly even 2020 looks safe?

  • HAM76 says:

    Moving to a revenue based system should be easier for BA than it was for Lufthansa, which has changed its system this year. With the tier based system status on British Airways is independent of the distance flown, elite status or many other variables that Lufthansa had to account for. I’m sure British Airways watches closely how Lufthansa is going to handle some of their common problems, such as mixed itineraries, corporate rates, code shares and IT implementation issues (LH’s IT doesn’t differ much from BA in terms of quality).

    • Anna says:

      If it goes to revenue based, we’d probably have to go back to using LCCs in the school holidays instead of our current mix of avios and cash tickets but I don’t think BA cares very much about leisure travellers like us!

      • HAM76 says:

        Lufthansa didn’t care much about their top tier status customers who saw all domestic routes being cut except for MUC and FRA and suffered most from technical difficulties after switching to revenue based earning. Leisure travellers tend to have simple itineraries that the software handled much better.

        So, yes, I totally agree. BA won’t care much about anyone as long as we still fly BA. I personally will continue to do so, no matter how BAEC changes.

  • Barry says:

    On the topic of the VGLC, they are now responsible for running the Virgin Red loyalty app. If you’ve not heard of it, you have to complete short daily activities in order to gain points to unlock entries into prize draws for prizes across the Virgin group brands. Top prize for December was 270k VS miles!

    If you’re a customer of certain Virgin companies, you can verify yourself to get an automatic 250 points every month for each company.

    If you sign up, use referral code RNB3CS for for some bonus points for both of us when you unlock your first prize!

    • Binks says:

      Barry thanks for the tip on the Virgin Red app – just bagged myself 1075 points! I Hve also registered for the monthly 250 points x 3. Are they transferable to miles?

      • Peter K says:

        I do it for fun but the points are just to enter competitions, nothing more. They reset every month.

        • RyanAirs says:

          In that sense the Virgin Red app is deliberately confusing. I started and packed it in.

        • Shoestring says:

          Complete waste of time, then. Unless you are retired and can’t fill the day with other stuff, I suppose.

      • Crafty says:

        Has anyone on here ever won anything? I’ve given up.

        • Shoestring says:

          Where does Virgin Red app rank vs eRewards?

          Scale – 1—>10 – complete waste of time (1) —> a few good points but this really just confirms I need to get a life (10)

        • David Dunphy says:

          I won a bottle of the sparkling Italian wine around 15 months ago. Nothing before, nor since. Both my partner and I as well as my best friend all take part every day. We avoid the reverse auction mind you.

        • Ane says:

          I won 40k Virgin miles earlier this year. I was slightly sceptical initially but the miles turned up in my account and have been put to good use towards a UC flight in 2019. Winning something has certainly kept me interested in the app!

  • Darren says:

    The CW seats change from old to new may see the opportunities for compensation for flying in old CW rather than new. It was very lucrative during the switch from old to new First.

    • Rob says:

      Indeed it was. I booked First Class back from Vegas, knowing it would be the old seat (which, remember, was physically virtually the same as the new seat, just scruffier). I got my 50,000 Avios compensation (this was a one-way flight so it covered the bulk of the cost) AND I was given three bottles of champagne in-flight as a BA Gold 🙂

    • Anna says:

      Our flights to GCM are always on a pretty ropey 3 class 777 as the runway can’t cope with anything bigger (fine for private jets though lol) – are these likely to be fitted with the new seats or offer any opportunities for compo? (Travelling in August).

  • Nigel the Pensioner says:

    BA / IAG taking over Flybe, and its domestic / European route network that it dropped only for Flybe to step in? Another great idea from Cruz / Walsh! Think “J” class food trolleys ;- ))

    • Craig says:

      The LHR slots that FlyBe own have the potential to become very valuable, the cynic in me would say that if BA or Virgin took then over then Fly Be wouldn’t last more than a few years.

      • Rob says:

        Those slots can, in perpetuity, only be used to fly to:
        Europe (any destination)

        BA cannot use those slots and I’m pretty sure that any other IAG airline would also be blocked.

        After 3 years, which may now be ‘up’, Flybe can drop Edinburgh and Aberdeen and launch another route from the list above, although it would be difficult if it was a route much further away than Edinburgh or Aberdeen as it would otherwise require slot swapping to get a suitable timed return slot.

        If Virgin wants to start Moscow, Cairo or Riyadh then clearly they have value and may justify buying Flybe – and these are, potentially, all routes with few direct flights from the US and where Virgin could benefit from connecting North American passengers at Heathrow.

        • Craig says:

          Maybe I’ve misread something in the past about the slots becoming more flexible in the next few years Rob? Even if that’s not the case, when and if the third runway opens (20XX!), any slots that BA can get their hands on will become valuable.

          • Rob says:

            They ARE becoming more flexible – at the moment they can ONLY be used for Manchester, Aberdeen or Edinburgh. After 3 years of use, Flybe can use them for any of the routes I listed.

            If the slots became fully free, they would, literally, be worth twice as much as the airline itself.

        • Craig says:

          Thanks for the clarification Rob.

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

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