As of last Thursday, you can now earn Virgin Flying Club tier points on every Air France and KLM flight you take.
We wrote this long two-part article on how to spend Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France and KLM. Today I want to look at how to earn tier points with the two airlines. A further piece will look at how many Flying Club miles you earn with Air France and KLM.
You have been able to earn Virgin Atlantic tier points on Delta flights for a couple of years now, and for the last few months it also worked on Air France and KLM codeshares. It now extends to all flights.
Before I go on, I should say that there has been virtually no discussion of these earning rates online, which is unhelpful as it would have been good to get feedback from heavy Virgin flyers. What follows below is my interpretation of what has been published, but there could be other unpublished rules and quirks we don’t know about.
Do you need to fly with Virgin Atlantic to earn Virgin Flying Club status?
With British Airways, you need to take at least four BA or Iberia flights to earn status. It cannot be earned purely from partner flights. There is NO minimum flight requirement with Virgin Flying Club. You can earn Virgin Atlantic status ENTIRELY from Air France and KLM flying if you wish.
More importantly, Air France and KLM flights are treated as long-haul if they are over 600 miles. (For comparison, the British Airways rule is 2,000 miles!) This opens up some amazing opportunities.
But before we go on ….
The reverse situation is also true. You can now credit all Virgin Atlantic flights to Flying Blue, the Air France and KLM frequent flyer programme. You could therefore also choose to abandon Virgin Flying Club and concentrate on Flying Blue instead.
There is no ‘best’ answer. It depends on the amount of Virgin and Air France KLM flying you do, and in what classes. Here are a couple of points to think about:
Virgin Atlantic is NOT in SkyTeam. There are strong rumours that it will join but nothing is official. If you fly with other SkyTeam airlines (Korean, Czech etc) then Flying Blue may be better as you can’t credit those flights to Virgin. Your Virgin Atlantic status won’t get you anything on SkyTeam airlines apart from Air France, KLM and Delta.
Similarly, if you want to be able to redeem across the whole of SkyTeam, not just Air France, KLM and Delta, then crediting your Virgin Atlantic flights to Flying Blue may make more sense.
Flying Blue has few UK partnerships. You CAN earn via a UK credit card, because American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at 1:1. It isn’t as good a deal as the Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cards, however, and Flying Blue isn’t a partner with Tesco Clubcard, Heathrow Rewards etc. If you earn a lot of miles from non-flying means, you may want to drop Flying Blue and credit to Virgin Flying Club.
A simple guide to earning Virgin Atlantic status with Air France and KLM
Let’s look at the Virgin Atlantic tier point system, which is outlined on its website here.
Virgin Flying Club is tiered like this:
Red – sign-up level
Silver – requires 400 tier points per year, key benefits are free seat selection in Economy Light for member only (Virgin does not charge in other classes), Premium check-in (where Premium desks exist), premium security, 30% mileage bonus on Virgin / Air France / KLM / Delta
Gold – requires 1,000 tier points year. This is where the real benefits kick in – free seat selection in Economy Light for your entire party, free exit row seat selection in Economy Classic, Upper Class check-in, premium security, extra baggage allowance, 60% mileage bonus on Virgin / Air France / KLM / Delta, lounge access when flying Virgin, KLM, Air France or Delta, arrivals lounge access at Heathrow, ability to create a Household Account for miles earning, companion reward voucher upon renewal
Here is a reminder of how you earn tier points with Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin and BA work slightly differently when you first earn status. With Virgin, your past activity as a Red member is counted on a ROLLING 12 month basis without fixed membership dates. Once you hit 400 tier points within the past 12 months (to be precise, 12 months plus the entire first month, so it would be 1st February 2019 to 18th February 2020) your membership expiry date is fixed. You need to hit 400 or 1,000 tier points within the next 12 months to renew Silver or reach Gold.
The downside versus BA is that you cannot go from Red to Gold by earning 1,000 tier points. You need at least 1,400. This is because as soon as you hit 400 you are upgraded to Silver and your tier points are reset at zero. In contrast, British Airways DOES let you go from Blue to Gold via Silver for the standard Gold requirement of 1,500 tier points, as long as you do it all within the same membership year.
When heading from Red to Gold, your tier points are reset to zero when you hit 400 and become Silver. However, you are then given Gold when you hit 600 tier points – you do not need to earn 1,000 for the first year.
This is what you earn when you fly with Virgin Atlantic (we will come to Air France and KLM earning in a minute):
- Upper Class (Z) – 100 tier points each way
- Upper Class (J, C, D, I) – 200 tier points each way
- Premium (H, K) – 50 tier points each way
- Premium (W, S) – 100 tier points each way
- Economy Delight – 50 tier points each way
- Economy Classic – 25-50 tier points each way depending on sub-class
- Economy Light – 25 tier points each way
IMPORTANT: You earn NOTHING if your flight is booked into A, X or O (Air France) or X or O (KLM). Discounted sale fares may well fall into these categories.
Renewing Gold would require as few as 5 one-way Upper Class flights per year as long as they were on flexible or semi-flexible tickets. British Airways, for comparison, requires 11 one-way Club World flights. BA does not discriminate between flex, semi-flex and non-refundable tickets however.
How many Virgin tier points do you earn with Air France and KLM?
Here is the key thing you need to know:
British Airways, for partner flights, treats ‘long haul’ as a flight over 2000 miles for the purposes of earning Executive Club long haul tier points
Virgin Atlantic, for Air France and KLM partner flights, treats ‘long haul’ as a flight over 600 miles for the purposes of earning long haul Flying Club tier points
This opens up some interesting opportunities for anyone who wants to do a status run.
Note that there is an error on the Virgin Atlantic website which says that you only earn on ‘VS-marketed’ flights. This wording was there last week when only codeshare flights counted and they forgot to remove it. I have flagged it with them!
Flights over 600 miles:
- Business Class (J, C, D) – 200 tier points each way
- Business Class (I, Z) – 100 tier points each way
- Premium (Air France only) (W, S) – 100 tier points each way
- Premium (Air France only) (H) – 50 tier points each way
- Economy – 25-50 tier points each way depending on sub-class
Flights under 600 miles:
- Business Class – 40 tier points each way
- Economy – 5-10 tier points each way depending on sub-class
What are my first thoughts here?
Here are a few obvious things that jumped out at me:
It isn’t clear what you earn from Air France First Class, not that many people fly it (it is far more exclusive than BA First Class and rarely discounted)
The 600 mile cut-off is interesting, because 600 miles really isn’t very far! Amsterdam to Nice, for example, is 608 miles.
I can see a big sweet spot here for flights just over 600 miles from Paris or Amsterdam. If you could get a cheap non-refundable Business Class flight between, say, Amsterdam and Nice it would earn 200 Virgin Flying Club tier points return!
There is good value here for people flying Economy in Europe. It is very difficult to earn British Airways status – even Silver – on Economy short-haul flights since you earn as few as 5 tier points per segment and need 600! However, a super-cheap KLM flight from the UK to Nice will earn at least 60 tier points (5 + 25 + 25 + 5) return. This means Virgin Flying Club Gold from 17 return trips. More likely, European short haul trips will be an easy of topping up your Virgin Flying Club tier points.
If you have a very liberal travel policy, there is LAUGHABLE value here. A fully flexible Business Class return flight on KLM from Manchester to Nice will earn 40 + 200 + 200 + 40 = 480 tier points return. You get Virgin Atlantic Silver status in one – admittedly expensive – return trip to Nice because of the ‘600 mile’ rule!
We still need to see how all this works in practice. The Virgin Atlantic website is still not fully re-written to reflect the addition of full miles and tier point earning on Air France and KLM and quirks may continue to appear. For now, however, it is looking very interesting.
You can, of course, now also earn Virgin Flying Club miles with Air France and KLM. This is an article for another day ….
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (November 2020)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
As well as the two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (see here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points), you can also earn from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
(Want to earn more Virgin 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.)