This is your complete guide to redeeming Virgin Flying Club points on Air France and KLM.
After a couple of years of anticipation, as well as a few unexpected delays, today is the day when you can finally fly to most of the planet using your Virgin Atlantic points! Booking is up and running at virginatlantic.com.
IMPORTANT: This article is based on advanced information provided by Virgin Atlantic but they have not proof read it so errors may have crept in. There were also still bugs on the Virgin Atlantic site yesterday but they were expected to be fixed by the time you read this …. let’s see. If you see different numbers on the Virgin website to what I have written here, it is probably the Virgin website that is wrong!
The ‘official’ versions of the information below can be found:
This is going to get a bit complicated, so let’s summarise the key information.
The points needed for a KLM or Air France flight do NOT match what you need for a Virgin Atlantic flight to the same destination. There is an entirely separate reward chart.
Short haul connections are FREE in terms of points. Pricing is NOT segment based, unlike Avios. You are NOT penalised for connecting in Paris or Amsterdam. A redemption from Paris to Bangkok requires the same number of miles as Birmingham – Paris – Bangkok.
However, you will pay £173 Air Passenger Duty if you book a connecting flight from the UK to a long haul destination in Business Class. There are substantial savings in taxes if you book your reward flight from Paris or Amsterdam and book a separate ticket to get there.
It appears that KLM will through-check baggage if your flights are on separate tickets. If you booked a cash or redemption ticket on KLM from Manchester to Amsterdam and a separate long-haul KLM redemption ticket, it appears that KLM will check through your luggage at Manchester to your final destination. British Airways no longer does this so it wil be a bit of novelty to some people!
How many Virgin Atlantic points do I need for a KLM or Air France redemption?
The rest of this article looks at short haul flights. Part 2 – click here – looks at how to spend Virgin points on long haul Air France and KLM flights.
The short haul pricing chart applies to all flights under 1,750 miles each way. This pricing INCLUDES connections where the total distance remains under 1,750 miles, so Manchester – Amsterdam – Stockholm would be OK.
Stopovers are allowed, I was told.
All of these numbers exclude taxes and charges.
Up to 600 miles (eg Heathrow to Paris CDG):
- Economy (peak date) – 4,500 points
- Economy (off peak date) – 4,000 points
- Business (peak date) – 9,000 points
- Business (off peak date) – 8,000 points
601 to 1,249 miles (eg Amsterdam to Rome):
- Economy (peak date) – 8,500 points
- Economy (off peak date) – 7,500 points
- Business (peak date) – 26,000 points
- Business (off peak date) – 25,000 points
1,250 to 1,749 miles (eg Paris to Athens):
- Economy (peak date) – 11,000 points
- Economy (off peak date) – 9,000 points
- Business (peak date) – 32,000 points
- Business (off peak date) – 30,000 points
Who wins and who loses here compared to Avios?
This is more relevant for long-haul redemptions, of course, but solo travellers should take more interest in these new redemption options than couples. Even when Virgin Flying Club is better value than Avios – which it is in many cases – it will always be worse when you factor in a British Airways American Express 241 voucher. This isn’t a factor for the solo traveller.
Whilst there is a 2-4-1 voucher on the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, it is only valid for Virgin Atlantic redemptions. It is also only valid for Economy redemptions unless you have Virgin Flying Club elite status.
Business Class short-haul travellers:
In general, Business Class redemptions are uncompetitive compared to Economy once you are travelling beyond 600 miles. You are looking at roughly 3x the Economy price, whereas Avios would ask for 2x.
Both Air France and KLM have a similar Business Class set-up to British Airways. Here is my review of Air France short-haul business class from Heathrow to Paris. You get an empty middle seat, a meal (a slightly odd meal on my review flight) and lounge access. If you have flown British Airways Club Europe, you know what to expect.
Whilst I DO generally redeem for Club Europe when I fly short-haul with British Airways, even I am struggling to see the value in paying 3x the Economy points price for Air France or KLM.
If you don’t see the value in booking Club Europe on BA for double the cost of Euro Traveller (which I think is a decent deal if you don’t otherwise have lounge access, fast track security and priority boarding), you certainly won’t see the value in paying a 200% premium for KLM or Air France Business Class.
That said, for flights under 601 miles you are looking at a 2x multiple for Business Class. I consider this decent value given all the extras but you may not.
If you live near Heathrow or Gatwick:
If you live near Heathrow or Gatwick, most European redemptions on Air France and KLM won’t interest you unless British Airways has no availability for the dates you want. (Remember that, as school holidays rarely match between the UK, France and Netherlands, you may get seats with Air France and KLM when BA has nothing.)
There are NO substantial savings over booking the sames routes with British Airways on Avios, and your trip would require a change of aircraft unless you were heading to Paris or Amsterdam. Taxes will also be higher because of the Reward Flight Saver taxes cap put in place by BA.
(This article in our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series looks at how Avios Reward Flight Saver works on short-haul British Airways flights.)
Even if you are heading to Amsterdam, taxes and charges are £20 higher, return, than they would be on British Airways. This applies to both Economy and Business Class. For Paris, expect to pay an additional £25 return in Economy and £38 in Business.
If you don’t live anywhere near Heathrow or Gatwick:
The winners are people living outside the Heathrow and Gatwick catchment area. Remember that British Airways charges for connections on Avios tickets on short haul. Virgin Flying Club does not.
If you live in Leeds and want to go to Athens, British Airways charges you twice – once for Leeds Bradford to Heathrow and once for Heathrow to Athens. You would pay between 39,000 Avios + £2 and 11,200 Avios + £202 (return, off-peak, economy) depending on which combination of cash and Avios you chose.
In contrast, Virgin Flying Club would charge 22,000 points + taxes and charges for Leeds Bradford to Athens via Amsterdam. I couldn’t get the Flying Club website to price this yesterday but Expedia shows £84 of taxes and charges.
The Virgin Flying Club option is better value here and changing aircraft in Amsterdam is generally easier than changing at Heathrow.
What are the peak and off-peak dates?
Here is the list running through to next Spring:
- Off peak pricing applies to 2nd April, 22nd April – 19th June, 7th September – 11th December, 6th January 2021 – 31st March 2021
- Peak pricing applies 3rd April – 21st April, 20th June – 6th September, 12th December 2020 – 5th January 2021
This link shows you the Avios peak and off-peak dates for 2020. There may be dates when it is benificial to switch your booking from BA to Air France KLM, or vice versa, if one is peak and the other is off-peak.
Where does KLM fly from in the UK?
Here is a list (put together by HFP, not Virgin Atlantic) of UK airports which offer direct flights to Amsterdam together with the taxes and charges figure for a return flight.
You will need 9,000 Virgin points peak or 8,000 Virgin points off-peak return, plus:
- Aberdeen – £55.36
- Belfast – £65.52
- Birmingham – £51.79
- Bristol – £60.06
- Cardiff – £57.99
- Durham Teesside – £58.30
- Edinburgh – £56.62
- Glasgow – £51.43
- Humberside – £67.98
- Inverness – £43.79
- Leeds Bradford – £56.80
- London City – £73.93
- London Heathrow – £57.24
- Manchester – £52.04
- Newcastle – £52.26
- Norwich – £64.70
In general, Air France taxes to Paris are higher than this. Air France flies from, outside London:
- Aberdeen (in the 601+ miles price zone, although Great Circle Mapper puts it at exactly 600 miles!)
Both Air France and KLM nominally fly from other UK airports but these flights are Flybe codeshares and are not bookable via this partnership. They will, of course, soon be bookable with Virgin Flying Club miles anyway once Flybe is integrated.
In Part 2 of this article, we look at long-haul flight pricing on Air France and KLM using Virgin Flying Club points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club points? 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.)