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Yes, you can redeem Virgin Points for Air France / KLM flights if the website says the seats have gone

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It is now over two years since Virgin Atlantic added Air France and KLM as redemption partners, following the launch of the expanded transatlantic joint venture with Delta Air Lines.

In theory, being able to book Air France and KLM flights with Virgin Points was a massive development.

Not only do the two airlines fly to many, many places not served by Virgin Atlantic, but the ability to make your own way to Paris or Amsterdam to start your trip meant that you could hugely reduce the taxes and surcharges required.

Virgin Points redemptions on KLM and Air France

Of course, it didn’t work out like that.

The Virgin Atlantic reward booking website is a mess.

The inabilty to recognise most airports when you type in their name is part of the problem (you have to click into a list of global airports, listed alphabetically).

The real issue, however, is that Air France and KLM redemptions stubbornly refuse to ticket.

I had never, ever, managed to get an Air France or KLM ticket successfully booked online despite multiple attempts over the last two years. I actually thought that it was impossible, although a couple of readers claimed to have done it.

This is what you would get, after going through the booking process:

…. a message saying ‘Sorry, there are no longer seats available on your chosen flight’.

This is not a case of ‘phantom availability’

I initially assumed that we were dealing with fake availability, and that the Virgin Atlantic website was showing you seats which were not actually bookable.

Having dug into the situation a bit, it turns out that this is not true.

If you get this message (which is 90%+ certain when trying to book Air France or KLM redemptions), the seats ARE available. You simply have to call to book them.

Of course, calling Virgin Atlantic has not exactly been easy for the last two years, and for all practical purposes your ability to speak to someone and make a booking was close to nil.

The good news is that the Virgin Atlantic call centre now seems to be on top of its backlog. They have even been able to cut opening hours, with the call centre now closing at 8pm instead of 10pm as it was during covid.

Air France 777 business class

The recorded message you get when you call warns of 30-60 minute delays depending on when you ring. In reality, you should get through in under 5 minutes at the moment.

I called up yesterday to try to book the seats which – when I tried to book online – threw up the message I screenshotted above.

The agent was able to quickly book what I needed, and I’ve got a bargain – 3 x business class seats to Dubai (one way) in October half term for 50,000 Virgin Points + £203 each. This is routed Paris to Dubai on Air France, on the Boeing 777 seat pictured above and which I reviewed here.

I need to get to Paris with the kids, of course, but with a 1.45pm departure that won’t be a struggle and it won’t be expensive either. We may even go the day before on the train and see a bit of Paris. My four return flights – my wife is travelling down later due to work commitments – are booked using British Airways On Business points which were about to expire.

So … if you had given up on booking Air France or KLM redemptions with Virgin Points because you were getting an (incorrect) message like the one above saying that the seats don’t actually exist, call up.

PS. Do NOT call Virgin Atlantic if SeatSpy shows Air France or KLM reward availability but the Virgin Atlantic website does not show it. Virgin does not have access to all Air France / KLM reward seats because Flying Blue using a revenue-based redemption model. Only seats priced at the lowest level are released to Virgin Atlantic or SkyTeam partners. For my Dubai seats, for example, Virgin Atlantic could book business class seats showing over at Flying Blue at 55,000 miles but not those priced at 150,000 miles.

Comments (52)

  • Beth glazer says:

    Just read article. I’m trying to get seats to San Jose Costa Rica. BA have no availability and seem to not fly as it’s for 1/2 April. On seat spy Air France are showing seats from Paris. So does this mean I phone virgin I will be able to use my miles. I have 700,000 virgin miles which I never seem to be able to use. THANKS IN ADVANCE.

    • Rob says:

      No. Virgin needs to show the seats online but throw up error messages when you try to pay.

  • Sammyj says:

    Rob, when you say you’ve used some of your 700k Virgin miles to book 3 flights, I’m assuming that’s you and the kids – were you able to pool your miles with theirs to book these flights, and was that status related? We’ve got an odd collection in the household as Virgin is only secondary, about 100k on mine, 50k on his, and 10-20k on each kid. Wondering if I can make anything sensible out of it, as I understood that without any status, pooling/family accounts weren’t available.

    (Trying a different email to see if I can skip the moderation queue!)

    • Rob says:

      The call centre can pool balances but in multiples of a flight – so for a 100k booking at 25k each, they can merge 75 + 25 but not 70 + 30. This is a voluntarily feature and not guaranteed.

      • Sammyj says:

        Thanks, so if I wanted to book something at 50k each, I could use mine, husband could use his, but if the kid had 20k I couldn’t add the remaining 30k from my own, as it’s not a complete flight – I’d need to use the extra 50k from my own account and pay for their entire flight? They’re really missing a trick with families!

        • Rob says:

          That’s how I understand it, yes. You need to remember that none of this is ‘official’ so it may be worth a call to see if they can be more flexible, especially if all account holders are travelling.

  • Martin Solomon says:

    I tried to book Jon back from São Paulo loads of availability on seat spy. Failed at payment page. Called up virgin Gold line and was told ignore seat spy there is no availability it is is an error.
    I’m confused do I call back and say they are wrong.

    • Andrew Lee says:

      I have the same problem. Check Seat Spy for KLM and Air France, lots of availability. Try to search on Virgin site and there isn’t any. Very annoying. I just assumed that KLM/Air France availability is different between their own sites and Virgin.

      • Froggee says:

        KLM and Air France have dynamic pricing on reward flights so there is almost always “availability” with them direct but it can be using a crazy bonkers number of miles. Seatspy cannot differentiate between this availability and standard availability.

    • Rob says:

      Ignore SeatSpy because Virgin has access to different seats.

      If the Virgin website shows it but falls over during booking, call.

      • Martin Solomon says:

        Called again and they said absolutely no availability from Sao Paolo. Seat spy showing bucket loads.
        Any advice really need to find a way of getting back in December. .

        • Rob says:

          SeatSpy shows loads because FB opens up virtually all seats for miles – the problem is that you need hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of miles most of the time. Partners only get access to the seats sold at ‘base’ mileage levels, whatever what is for a particular route.

          You need VS to show you the seat online. It is very unlikely to be bookable but you can then call and hopefully it can be done.

  • Andrew J says:

    No comments allowed on the IHG article?

  • Mikeact says:

    And the other way round..may be of interest to some.
    Last December, I easily booked 2 x Virgin Upper Class seats, one way, in July, back to the UK from MCO using my KLM miles. Bargain total cost of € 377.36 and 125000 miles….

  • Confused says:

    Still confused about this redemption process – am I able to book a through ticket London-Paris-X Destination for example, or do I always need to get to Paris/Amsterdam on my own?

    And can I use an upgrade voucher with these redemptions?

    • Rob says:

      You can book a through ticket, if there is availability on both legs, but of course it adds long haul Air Passenger Duty. Personally I was happy to pocket the £600 taxes saving across 3 seats and make our own way to Paris.

      You can’t use an upgrade voucher on partner airlines.

  • Neil says:

    Having checked availability I rang the call centre to book Humberside/Amsterdam/Dubai Business. Everything went well reference given, payment made. Only to be contacted a couple of hours later to be told KLM had refused to issue me tickets. Beyond gutted!!

    • Mikeact says:

      And the reason? Not clear at all…KL tickets?…VS tickets…? Or some other carrier ?

    • CamFlyer says:

      I had this situation trying to book with Flying Blue Miles on KLM. The agent claimed it was because the price had changed (ie, AF/KL dynamic award pricing). I insisted that, as i had been issued a booking reference, the ticket could be issued. The agent had to check with a supervisor, who agreed and after much key clicking and internal discussion managed to issue the tickets.

  • M Jetha says:

    Do I search on Virgin website? Eg type Paris to Dubai? When I try this always get a message no flights available

    • Rob says:

      Do you see nothing showing up or do you see flights but the booking falls over? If the latter, call.

      Wed 19 Oct there are seats outbound for example.

      • M Jetha says:

        I don’t see anything. If I try to book say from France to Dubai it never shows any flights. Keep saying flights not available.

        • Rob says:

          You’re doing something wrong then.

          CDG-DXB, Wed 19 Oct 2022, one way, one person, Upper Class shows availability as of 8pm.

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