This is your complete guide to redeeming Virgin Points from Virgin Flying Club on Air France and KLM.
The partnership between Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM launched in February 2020. This was, of course, terrible timing. No sooner had we published our initial coverage then the UK slipped into lockdown.
With travel now opening up, I thought it was a good time to remind you of the benefits of the partnership and explain how to book redemption flights on Air France and KLM.
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 £180 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. This doesn’t apply on your return flight.
It appears that KLM will through-check baggage if your flights are on separate tickets although I don’t have any recent confirmation. 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 later this week 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 believe.
All of these numbers exclude taxes and charges and are for one way flights.
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.
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 around £30 higher, return, compared with British Airways Reward Flight Saver rates. This applies to both Economy and Business Class.
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 Manchester and want to go to Athens, British Airways charges you twice – once for Manchester to Heathrow and once for Heathrow to Athens. You would pay between 46,000 Avios + £2 and 14,400 Avios + £206 (return, off-peak, economy) depending on which combination of cash and Avios you chose.
In contrast, Virgin Flying Club would charge 18,000 points + £92 of taxes and charges for Manchester to Athens via Amsterdam on an off-peak data.
The Virgin Flying Club option is clearly 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:
- 6th September 2021 – 14th October 2021
- 27th October 2021 – 10th December 2021
- 6th January 2022 – 31st March 2022
- 26th April 2022 – 29th May 2022
- 6th June 2022 – 17th June 2022
- 5th September 2022 – 30th September 2022
- 19th June 2021 – 5th September 2021
- 15th October 2021 – 26th October 2021
- 11th December 2021 – 5th January 2022
- 1st April 2022 – 25th April 2022
- 30th May 2022 – 5th June 2022
- 18th June 2022 – 4th September 2022
This link shows you the Avios peak and off-peak dates for 2021 and 2022. There may be dates when it is beneficial 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 of UK airports which – pre covid – offered direct flights to Amsterdam. It isn’t clear at the moment if any of these routes have been closed for good or if all will return over the next few months.
You will need 9,000 Virgin points peak or 8,000 Virgin points off-peak return, plus:
- Leeds Bradford
- London City
- London Heathrow
In general, Air France taxes to Paris are higher than this. Pre-covid, Air France flew from, outside London:
- Aberdeen (in the 601+ miles price zone, although Great Circle Mapper puts it at exactly 600 miles)
In Part 2 of this article later in the week, we look at long-haul flight pricing on Air France and KLM using Virgin Points.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 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 30,000 Points until 15th October 2021):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points:
Until 2nd November 2021, there is a special offer on The Platinum Card from American Express.
You will receive a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points which converts into 60,000 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.)