18 months ago, Virgin Atlantic relaunched its economy pricing structure.
There are now three levels of pricing, offering different benefits. At the bottom end you have no checked baggage and will be allocated a seat at check-in, with no guarantee that couples will be sat together. At the top end, you have the new Economy Delight package with premium benefits including more legroom.
What I’m going to show in this article is that the additional frequent flyer miles you earn from Economy Delight are – on their own – pretty much worth the additional cost. This makes is a no-brainer to book these tickets. Not many people have worked this out, however!
What are Virgin Atlantic’s economy seat options?
Your options are:
Economy Light: Hand Baggage Only fare with seats assigned at check-in, cannot be upgraded to Upper Class or Premium Economy with miles
Economy Classic: The old Economy fare with the ability to pre-select seats and with checked luggage included, can be upgraded to Upper Class or 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 Upper Class or Premium Economy with miles
Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website here.
Here is a slightly OTT picture of an Economy Delight seat:
But there’s more …..
Virgin Atlantic awards different levels of Virgin Flying Club miles for each ticket class.
This makes a HUGE difference to the value proposition, especially for Economy Delight.
Economy Light: earns 25% of miles flown plus 25 tier points each-way
Economy Classic: earns 50% of miles flown plus 25 tier points each-way (the Virgin website says ‘50% to 150% of miles flown’ and ’25 to 50′ tier points each way but the cheaper non-flexible tickets will only offer 50% miles bonus and 25 tier points)
Economy Delight: earns 150% of miles flown plus 50 tier points each-way
These numbers show during the booking process when you select an Economy seat and are asked to pick between Light, Classic and Delight.
This page of the Virgin Atlantic website explains their tier point system. You need 400 tier points in a rolling 12-month period for Silver and 1,000 tier points for Gold.
How does pricing move around between ticket types?
There is obviously no fixed answer. It varies by route and over time.
However, as a rough rule of thumb, Economy Classic costs £100 on top of Economy Light, and Economy Delight costs another £100 on top of Economy Classic.
Looking at a wide range of dates for various North America routes, I never saw the gap between Economy Delight and Economy Classic drop below £70 return. The most extreme gap was £180 return.
For the sake of this article I am sticking with a £100 gap between each level,
Should you pick Economy Light or Classic?
I’m not going to spend much time looking at the price difference between Economy Light and Economy Classic.
The price gap, as I said above, tends to be £100 return.
As it will cost you £90 return to check in a suitcase, only a total idiot would book Economy Light if they had luggage. You are ‘saving’ £10 but missing out on free selection and a big pile of additional Virgin Flying Club miles.
(Virgin’s pricing for additional baggage over your allowance can be found here.)
If you’re not taking a suitcase, the key thing to know is that seat selection before check-in costs £30 each way (£60 return) on an Economy Light ticket. If you are on a Boeing 747, Upper Deck seating costs £35 each way (£70 return).
(Virgin’s pricing for seat selection can be found here.)
You will also earn an extra 0.25 Flying Club miles per mile flown. On longer routes such as San Francisco, this would mean an additional 2,600 miles which should be worth £26 if used well.
If you’re happy to take your chances with whatever seats are left at check-in then Economy Light may work for you. However, remember that you are missing out on additional Flying Club miles and you have a ticket type that cannot be upgraded. Economy Classic CAN be upgraded with miles to either Premium or Upper Class.
Why Virgin’s Economy Delight is the real sweet spot
I have been digging into routes and prices. My view is that it is often a no-brainer to book Economy Delight, especially on longer routes.
A lot of people who don’t read HFP won’t work this out, but let me explain my thinking.
In general Economy Delight is priced at £100 return above Economy Classic and £200 return above Economy Light.
Let’s look at the Virgin Flying Club miles received. I am assuming that you are savvy enough to get at least 1p of value per Virgin Flying Club mile. This isn’t difficult as long as you are redeeming for Premium or Upper / Business.
Here’s an example. San Francisco is 10,734 miles return.
This means you would earn roughly:
2,600 Virgin Flying Club miles for an Economy Light return
5,200 Virgin Flying Club miles for an Economy Classic return (+ 2,600, so £26-worth)
15,600 Virgin Flying Club miles for an Economy Delight return (+ 13,000, so £130-worth)
To be clear, on a 12-hour Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco the additional cost of Economy Delight over Economy Classic is often entirely offset by the additional Virgin Flying Club miles you earn.
This assigns no value to:
- the extra 3 inches of leg-room
- priority check-in
- priority boarding
- the extra tier points
Compared to Economy Light, you are also getting:
- free seat selection (otherwise £60 return)
- a free suitcase (otherwise £90 return)
- the ability to upgrade with miles to Upper Class or Premium if available
Even if you are not a long-term collector of Virgin Flying Club miles, remember that 12,500 miles is enough for a £50 Virgin Group gift voucher.
Fly to San Francisco in Economy Delight and you would earn roughly 15,600 miles which would get you a £50 voucher. Economy Light would only earn 2,600 miles whilst Economy Classic would only earn 5,200 miles. The £50 value of the voucher offsets half of the cost of the upgrade from Economy Classic. And this assumes you redeem for the worst possible Virgin Flying Club redemption, ie the gift voucher!
Even if you have zero interest in earning 150% base miles from Economy Delight, I still think it makes sense. On the longer routes, you are paying £100 extra return over Economy Classic to get an extra chunk of leg-room for 24 hours of flying time. That is £4 per hour. If you don’t value your well-being at an extra £4 per hour ….
If you believe you can get 1p per Virgin Flying Club mile, the Economy Delight upgrade is free in most cases due to the extra miles you earn.
All of the maths above is based around the longer Virgin Atlantic routes.
The benefit of Economy Delight is less clear cut on a shorter flight such as New York, because the extra cost is still roughly £100 return over Economy Classic (although I saw it as low as £70 return) but the flying time is shorter and the bonus Flying Club miles are fewer.
I would still be giving Economy Delight consideration though, because £100 return for the additional legroom plus some extra miles plus priority boarding etc is never going to be a bad deal.
On the longer Virgin Atlantic routes, I see no real justification – if you can get full value from the extra Virgin Flying Club miles these tickets earn – for not paying the extra for Economy Delight over Economy Classic.
You can read about the different Economy Classes 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.)