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What will we see from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in 2020?

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What can we expect to see from British Airways / Avios and Virgin Atlantic / Flying Club in 2020?  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 2020?

We won’t see anything in 2020 to match 2019 and the unveiling of Club Suite.  However, if 2019 was about the unveiling, 2020 sees the more tedious but more important phase of getting the new seat out there.  The target is for 30% of the Heathrow long-haul fleet to have Club Suite by Christmas 2020.

In terms of new aircraft, the big thing is the arrival of the first Boeing 787-10.  We ran some pictures of this the other day and it is due to arrive soon.  It will start on the Atlanta route in February.

In terms of seating it will come with Club Suite and an eight-seat First Class cabin, using the same seat that is on the 787-9.  This means there is nothing radically new to see and, as an event, it is nowhere near as important as the arrival of the first A350.

Another batch of A350 aircraft will also arrive during 2020, along with a handful of Boeing 777.

To offset the new arrivals, further Boeing 747 aircraft will be retired this year, although 747s will still be around for at least another three years.

The ‘New Year Resolutions’ press release circulated by BA last week confirmed that a new crew uniform, designed by Ozwald Boateng, is still in the works and due in 2020 – albeit now too late for the 100th birthday celebrations.  Lounge ‘refreshes’ were also promised for Heathrow, Edinburgh and Berlin.

The only new long-haul route announced so far for 2020 is Portland, as we covered the other day.

Across the broader IAG Group:

we will see what conditions the EU competition authorities place on IAG’s proposed acquisition of Air Europa, and whether it will cause them to walk away

Royal Air Maroc is now due to join oneworld at the end of March – an article on this will follow tomorrow

the ‘Letter of Intent’ for 200 Boeing 737MAX aircraft, secured at what is almost certainly the lowest price achieved for short-haul aircraft in the last decade, may or may be turned into a firm order – BA’s share of the fleet would go to Gatwick if confirmed

In terms of Avios, the current strategic plans will have been disrupted by the surprise resignation of CEO Drew Crawley.  IAG’s strategy plans show a sharp increase in Avios issuance to 9% CAGR for 2020-2022 and Avios staff tell me that this is conservative. 

Something must be ‘up’ to justify these numbers since they are massively in excess of IAG’s passenger growth figures, and Avios is dealing with the loss of Flybe and the fall-off in volume from Amex.

One change which is certain is that redemptions on LATAM will cease when the airline leaves oneworld in October.  Royal Air Maroc will bring some new options to the table however.

Moving on to Virgin Atlantic ……

Virgin Atlantic is in a similar position to BA regarding seats, but under a little more pressure.  The A350 Upper Class Suite has come under criticism for its ‘too tight’ tray table and lack of storage, and the cabins also seem to be showing worrying signs of wear after just a few weeks.

The redesigned tray table we were promised does not yet seem to be available.  As with BA, A350 deliveries will continue throughout 2020.

Virgin has announced that the A350 will appear on Los Angeles, San Francisco and Lagos as the year progresses, with New York being virtually ‘all A350’.

Sao Paolo is the only new route announced so far launching with the Summer timetable on 29th March.  We have been told to keep that day clear by Virgin so you may get a trip report during April.

Gatwick to New York is also launching in March, as part of a plan by Virgin and its major shareholder Delta to wreck JetBlue’s UK launch.  Delta is joining the spoiler party by starting Gatwick to Boston.

St Lucia is being dropped from June, although British Airways has picked up the slack here.

The big news for 2020 may be at Manchester.  The rebuilding of the airport will reach the end of the first phase, with Virgin Atlantic gaining a Clubhouse lounge during the Spring.  There is massive potential for Virgin Atlantic at Manchester now that Thomas Cook has collapsed, since it is unlikely that any other competitor will want to launch multiple new long-haul routes to pick up the slack.  Norwegian would have been a threat but it is now retrenching as it attempts to become profitable.

Let’s move on to loyalty.  There are major events this year which could potentially transform Flying Club.

The first is the launch of Virgin Red (which I believe is being kept as the name) in April, assuming the timetable hasn’t slipped.  This is the new Virgin Group loyalty operation, allowing all Virgin-branded businesses to earn miles.  I’m not very excited about the redemption side – I am guessing that most will be poor value – but I am excited about the potential to pick up Flying Club miles from a wide range of new partners.

Secondly, we have the full integration of Air France and KLM into Flying Club.  This will let you redeem your Flying Club miles for all Air France and KLM services, as well as credit all Air France and KLM services to Virgin.  Virgin status will get you into Air France and KLM lounges, and vice versa.  I know the start date for this and it is very soon.  If the pricing is right it could be transformational.  It could also signal the end of Flying Blue’s presence in the UK if members choose to switch to Virgin Flying Club instead.

We should also see the integration of Flybe / Virgin Connect into Flying Club during 2020, with earning and redeeming becoming available.

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

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2024)

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 £15,000 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 sign-up 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 (169)

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

  • Roger* says:

    I have a different BAPP question. I’ve had the card since it began. I cut down using it folowing the 2018 data breach and use it mainly for BA transactions. OK? Er, no.

    I had a large refund a year or so ago. Avios were deducted, leaving me with a large minus balance on the card. I expected these to be deducted. No, the minus balance is still there. The result is I need to spend £12k over the next month to earn my next 2-4-1. This won’t happen.

    How can I get this negative balance applied to my BA Avios account so that I can start afresh with my card spend from next month on. Of course, I’m happy for my BA Avios account to be debited.


  • Helen peter says:

    I have travel with British airway for many years, and I have no reason to change, the service is top of the line.

  • Ben says:

    Do Flying Club offer status match? I’m Ba gold but my primary route EDI-LHR is better priced on Virgin (Flybe). Since I’ll also be doing EDI-AMS, status match would not only help me but likely flip me to flying 90+ flights credited to Flying Club.

    • Rob says:

      Flybe will have its own loyalty scheme, not Flying Club – but it will award FC miles. Not clear if status will be reciprocal with VS.

  • Olly says:

    OT but don’t think I’ve seen this covered on HFP before (only the BA equivalent). If you cancel a Virgin redemption do you get the full cash aspect back in addition to the miles?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, less the cancellation fee (£25?).

      • Olly says:

        Thanks Rob, was just scanning the Ts&Cs and looks like it’s £30 to change or cancel now.

        One more question – on the old MBNA voucher it was possible to use the 241 on a cash ticket.Do you know if that’s still the case or if it is only feasible on mileage redemptions now? (couldn’t find any details in the terms but the literature implies it’s only with miles now, like on BA)

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

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