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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.

  • Dace says:

    I am not too sure how much further BA can go with these devaulations as the tax increase has already meant that sale tickets now offer much more vaule than redemptions.

    • TripRep says:

      Dace – when you say “Tax”…

      Are you incorrectly using it as short hand for the catchy “Carrier Imposed Surcharges”?

    • Anna says:

      Is this not what it wants though, to push customers into paying for cash tickets over award bookings?

      • Dace says:

        Probably. However, it does mean I will drop all Avios redemptions (which does give them revenue) and then switch to other carriers when I get a chance as they provide a better product. So, whilst it saves them redemptions, they will get a lot less revenue from me long term.

  • Neil says:

    I have just over 234,000 flying club miles that I’ve saved for years. Do you think there at risk? Should I book flights (that I don’t really need) to use them up soon?

    • TripRep says:

      I would not expect a big VS devaluation so soon after they review miles with new Peak) Off-peak pricing and increased the difference between PE & UC. That said KLM/AF hook up is a bit of a unknown, we may see availability get hammered initially.

      The VGLC change also makes me think the fab last minute flexibility I got upgrading a PE upgrade voucher redemption again upto to UC redemption would be even more unlikely.

    • Rob says:

      No, of course not. In theory FC will get a lot better when Air France and KLM seats are bookable. The devil, as always, is in the detail.

    • Alan says:

      If planning a trip to Japan I’d look at snagging an ANA F redemption in case that goes away with any changes…

  • Jon says:

    As a Platinum supp card holder do I get the Priority card that will get me AND the other half into lounges?

    Do I also get the car hire benefits.?

    Main card holder will not be travelling


    • Rob says:


      • Jon says:

        I assume that is Yes to Both?

        • Rob says:

          Yes, because a supp card – as far as the benefits are concerned – is the same as a main card.

        • Sam says:

          Rob, on a gold amex supp card, does that come with the two lounge passes too? So you in effect end up with 4 passes, 2 with main card and 2 with supp card. Is my understanding correct?

          Also flying from Heathrow T3 soon and will use my Amex Gold for a lounge pass, which lounge would you recommend (that I can get in with the gold card)? Thank you.

          • Rob says:

            No, because (and I know this is confusing) this is American Express Gold and NOT American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which is the one with the lounge passes.

            Links to all our lounge reviews are on the ‘Favourites’ tab, or click ‘Airport Lounge Reviews (UK)’ in the ‘categories’ menu – bottom right on desktop / tablet.

        • Sam says:

          Understood, thanks Rob

    • TripRep says:

      What are the car hire benefits with Plat?

      btw – Alamo were pretty good on my hols, came out and delivered/exchanged a vehicle at the house where I was staying. It had been parked in the garage for 2 days, came to use it and both front & rear drivers tyres had flats from slow punctures. All included in the hire charges.

      • Rob says:

        Very aggressive CDP when using Hertz, you can refuse any and all demands to buy insurance on top of what is legally included. Effectively, the price you see when booking is the price you end up paying.

        • Alan says:

          Yep I find the Amex Plat CDP one of the best with Hertz – can get some great deals on SUVs for £1-2 more than lower categories. Also get 4h extra for free in many places, often saving a day’s rental.

      • Alan says:

        Nice. We had a slow puncture with Budget – weren’t that helpful when we went to local branch who just redirected us to the airport. They didn’t have any issue for swapping us out for a replacement car at no cost though so overall not bad.

  • Down the Back says:


    Rob is there a specific email to send the Platinum status challenge request to for Marriot/SPG ?
    I’ve checked the Marriot website and can’t see the challenge mentioned anywhere.



    • Rob says:

      No, normal contact email.

    • Bonglim says:

      Is the platinum challenge still the easiest way to get platinum?
      No hope of a marriott credit card triggering platinum through overall spend?
      I have a booking for later in the year and need to find the cheapest way to get free breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel (2 of us for 5 days) would be 500 euro – so probably worth it – without even considering what other trips I might do over the next 2 years.

      • Rob says:

        No idea what the new Marriott credit card will look like but I very much doubt you’ll get Platinum in any way. You do have quite a long time to find a period when you could potentially do enough nights (paid for by work) to complete the challenge however.

        I ended up spending about £200 on unnecessary stays to trigger mine and it has already paid for itself a couple of times over.

  • Paul says:

    4 years to refit nearly 100 aircraft doesn’t sound too slow to me? Especially when it reduces flexibility having a couple airplanes out of action at a time.

    Also seat manufacturers won’t increase production rates for one client, not worth an extra factory.

  • TripRep says:

    New Virgin Competition

    £1 PE flights hidden on their search engine…

    • Rob mc says:

      Going to take a bit of effort to find those flights..!

      • Shoestring says:

        Put me out of my misery over the last year or more – you’re not my old mate Rob McArdle (big Spain connection) are you?

        • Rob mc says:

          Unfortunately not.. unless you owe him vasts amount of money.. if so yes, yes I am.

        • Shoestring says:

          haha! nope – he owes me a few drinks as it happens, big shot in wine so I might collect some day 🙂

  • Dr clough says:

    Regarding virgins upper class seat any configeration is better than the present one i never like it.
    As for BA. They should concentrate on getting the attitude of the crew sorted first along with ALL othere aspects of there club service, befor sorting there seat out as that is the least of there problems.

  • Tom says:


    In general it is a bad idea to hoard any kind of loyalty points for a long time, since changes to programmes are only ever negative, and you risk dilution of the value of those points/miles.

    My rule of thumb is generally to use Avios for the partner airlines of BA rather than BA itself, because of the extra fees that BA charges.

    I try not to let my Avios balance exceed 150K, which will pretty much get you anywhere in Business Class even at peak times.

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

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