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Virgin Atlantic to introduce fees for ‘preferred’ economy seating

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Virgin Atlantic is introducing charges for some Economy seating as it aligns its policies with those of its North American joint venture partners Delta Air Lines, KLM and Air France.

The bottom line, however, is that you don’t need to pay for a seat if you don’t want to.

Virgin Atlantic preferred seating

How does Virgin Atlantic economy seating work at present?

At present, Virgin Atlantic has three types of economy tickets with different seating policies:

  • Economy Light – free seat allocated at check-in, or pay from £30 each way to select in advance
  • Economy Classic – free seat selection at any time
  • Economy Delight – free seat selection at any time, from a group of seats with three inches of additional leg room

This is what is changing:

  • Economy Light tickets continue to have a seat allocated at check-in, but passengers may also book a ‘preferred’ seat for cash in advance if they wish
  • Economy Classic tickets can still select a seat for free at the time of booking, but passengers will need to pay if they want to book into the 25%-33% of the economy cabin which is designated as ‘preferred’ seating
  • Economy Delight tickets continue as before

It is important to note that no-one needs to be financially worse off as a result of this change.

Economy Classic passengers can still select a seat for free at the time of booking. The only difference is that their selection is being reduced.

What are defined as preferred seats?

The seats which will carry a charge are:

  • Seats near the front of the cabin
  • Exit row seats
  • Duo seats (two seats with no middle seat)

Here are two typical seat maps, click to enlarge. The blue seats are bulkhead seats for families. The red seats are ‘preferred’. The purple-hash seats are Economy Delight.

I am guessing that switch in location of ‘preferred’ seats between the A330-300 and A330-200 is driven by the location of the extra legroom seats allocated to Economy Delight.

When does this change happen?

The new seating structure will apply to tickets sold from 15th March, for flights from 5th July onwards.

Are there any benefits for Virgin Flying Club elite members?

Yes.

Flying Club Gold members travelling in Economy Classic, and those with semi-flexible tickets in Q class and above, will be able to assign a ‘preferred’ seat free of charge.

What will ‘preferred’ seating cost?

Economy Classic customers will pay £30 per segment for a preferred seat. All other seats, apart from those allocated to Economy Delight, are free to Economy Classic ticket holders.

Economy Light customers will pay £40 per segment for a preferred seat. Alternatively, they can have a seat assigned for free at check in.

Do existing customers have to pay more?

No.

If you are already booked into a ‘preferred seat’ then no additional payment will be required. However, if you decide to change your seat after 15th March then additional fees will be payable.

Importantly, if you are holding an Economy Classic ticket for travel after 5th July, you should book your free seat NOW. After 15th March, the range of seats that is available for free will be reduced.

Conclusion

This appears to be a modest change. The only losers are Economy Classic ticket holders who have a slightly smaller range of seats to select for free.

Life seems to continue as it did for Economy Light passengers, as long as they are happy to receive a random seat at check-in, and Economy Delight passengers.


HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (April 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points):

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Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

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You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(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.)

Comments (26)

  • The uncivil servant says:

    If I am not travelling Upper or Premium, I always pick Economy Delight, 150% mileage and more legroom, though on the downside I do find its full of aspiring lower middle class types. First world problems….

  • Andrew says:

    Curious.

    When I travel with a mate of mine, we both like an aisle seat. He’s hard of hearing so it’s easier to chat with an aisle between us than side by side. If the layout accurately represents the actual seating, it means there are no suitable seats for us if we fly economy delight and only 6 on each plane in preferred seating.

    • Rhys says:

      The images don’t depict the entire economy cabin – just the front few rows.

  • pigeon says:

    This seems a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I mean they can barely sell the delight fares, which are £25-£45 more each way, so how do they think they’ll sell the no-extra-legroom middle-of-the-cabin seats for £30?

  • Colin Mc says:

    They tried to put this in maybe 6 years ago, kicking me out of 2 pairs of rear seats without telling me, as they were shifting them into a premium slot, as you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased and haven’t flown them since, despite some points and duty free freebies, no apologies just compo.

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