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Air France launches Abu Dhabi flights – a new Virgin Points route to the Middle East

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Air France has announced a new route from Paris Charles du Gaulle to Abu Dhabi.

Launching at the start of the winter flying season on Sunday 29th October, it represents a new way to spend Virgin Points to get to the Middle East.

I have used Air France to fly to Dubai before using Virgin Points – last year I managed to get enough business class seats for my entire family.

Air France A350 business class

Availability to Dubai quickly dries up though. At the moment, the new Abu Dhabi route looks very open.

The flights operate daily. It is an overnight flight from Paris, departing at 9.15pm (lands 6.45am) with the return leaving Abu Dhabi at 8.45am, landing in Paris at 1.15pm.

Air France is using an A350. It will be one of the earlier ones with the old-style business class seat pictured above and not the new suite.

I think the reason it is an overnight flight out is that Air France codeshares with Etihad on the route, and the existing Paris – Abu Dhabi flight on Etihad leaves in the morning. This service cannot be booked on Virgin Points despite being an Air France codeshare.

How to book with Virgin Points

Here is Virgin Atlantic showing FOUR business class seats for Virgin Points on Monday 30th October, back on Sunday 5th November, should your children have a late half-term:

As you can see, you can save a lot on taxes and charges if you choose to start your trip in Paris. As the screenshot shows, the cost per person, return, in business class is 110,000 Virgin Points + €388 (£337).

You could either buy a separate flight to Paris, collecting and rechecking your bags, or do what we did last year and take Eurostar with a sightseeing day in Paris before flying onwards. If that’s too much faff, you can book with a connecting Air France flight to/from the UK – either London or one of its regional departure points – although the addition of Air Passenger Duty will push up taxes sharply.

It is very unlikely that the Virgin Atlantic website will let you complete an online booking. It has never let me book a long-haul Air France or KLM flight – you always get an error message after inputting payment details saying ‘sorry, someone else took your seats’ but this is not true. Call Virgin Atlantic after checking the Virgin website for availability and you can book successfully.

You cannot use a Virgin Atlantic credit card 2-4-1 or upgrade voucher on partner airline flights such as this one.

Here is my review of flying to Dubai last year on an Air France Boeing 777. This is a different seat to the A350 but it will give you an idea of the food and IFE.

The Air France website is here.

How to earn Flying Blue miles from UK credit cards

How to earn Flying Blue miles from UK credit cards (September 2023)

Air France and KLM do not have a UK Flying Blue credit card.  However, you can earn Flying Blue miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.

These cards earn Membership Rewards points:

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Flying Blue miles which is an attractive rate.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Flying Blue mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.

Comments (39)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • yorkieflyer says:

    Can we please hear about flights to somewhere other than the UAE?

    • Martin says:

      Where would you prefer ??

      • Born2sKydive says:

        Beuruit for one on MEA with virgin points

        • Mr. AC says:

          That seems very niche. You don’t see me requesting a guide on how to use Amex MR to book flights to Moscow.

        • Jay says:

          How about Cayman islands using Emirates skyward points?

        • Ant says:

          Didn’t use points but I travelled to Beirut on MEA over Christmas. Fascinating city and learned so much! Baalbek was incredible too.

  • Andrew J says:

    I did manage to book AF flights using Virgin points in the Virgin app at the weekend without a problem – so maybe the issue is fixed.

    • Rob says:

      Not fixed on desktop. May try the app next time!

    • Jon Arnold says:

      I had problems 2 weeks ago on both the app and the desktop trying to buy reward tickets on KLM. You go through to payment and only then does it say the seats are no longer available. So annoying. Ended up booking by phone and the wait time was thankfully only a few minutes.

  • drdan says:

    Far East!!

    • Born2sKydive says:

      Yep would also love to see a review of business on Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi or something, with Virgin points

        • Rob says:

          …. however, in general, it is harder for us to get review flights off niche alliance members because they don’t really focus on UK marketing and often don’t even have teams here.

          Asia trips are also massively disruptive for HfP as a business, since it requires losing someone for at least a week. A US or Middle East trip can be done in 72 hours or less – Rhys is doing a 48 hour trip to Abu Dhabi next week. Flies out on Tuesday and we’ve got him in meetings back in London on Thursday.

          • Nick says:

            Please tell me he’s going to Abu Dhabi on Wizzair?!

          • Rhys says:

            Even I would put my foot down there!

            Although I do have some friends who, having bought the Wizz Air package that gets you free bag etc for a year, are doing London to Tel Aviv via multiple European cities on Wizz Air, spending a few days in each.

          • ADS says:

            just noticed that you can get Wizzair flights from Abu Dhabi to either Luton or Gatwick (via Athens) for around £100 in October !

        • Jon Arnold says:

          Were you able to book those online or did you need to call them?

    • NicktheGreek says:

      It’s be nice, but you’ve also gotta look at the numbers. By my count there’s 26 direct flights a day to the UAE with 3 airlines from 6 UK airports. There’s 26 flights a day to in total to Japan, Korea, HK, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan from 2 airports.

      You gotta report on where the people wanna go!

      • No longer Entitled says:

        UAE is a hub. A lot of those flights will be carrying people onwards to the East.

        • Londonsteve says:

          Indeed. Having visited Dubai before, I’d go again but only if it was cheap for the novelty of heat in the middle of the European winter, but it’s certainly not cheap. I’m clearly not their target customer because that spiky tower with a viewing platform and the dancing fountains left me stone cold. I preferred exploring the ‘ethnic’ areas around the creek in the balmy evening temperatures, something seemingly that few others tourists to Dubai were interested in doing. The synthetic glitz of Madinat Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab and umpteen shopping malls with valet parking are apparently much more appealing.

  • TimM says:

    Will Virgin ever start a short/medium haul network?

    • AJA says:

      They tried and failed at doing that. Remember Virgin Atlantic Little Red?

    • Rob says:

      Little Red?

      Only if it somehow got a pile of slots and had to wait a few years to get long haul aircraft to utilise them properly.

      • Panda Mick says:

        Little Red failed because of how VS/DL wanted to use it as a feeder for long haul flights from LHR.

        If they’d have run it independently, and have invested in some decent marketing against BA, it may have been more successful.

    • Andrew. says:

      Virgin Cross Country (lost franchise)
      Virgin Trains East Coast (handed back franchise)
      Virgin Trains West Coast (lost franchise)
      Virgin Trains USA (litigation continues)

      Then there was Little Red. A few tired AerLingus jets on a wet lease, with a light refresh and the Little Red logo.

      I liked their prices, you could pretty much guarantee a row to yourself in economy, but that’s no way to run an airline.

  • AlisonV says:

    I would not recommend to ever fly Air France unless you want to spend months hunting for your bags and getting no customer service help or compensation.
    I found out the hard way after a long haul business trip, that there are no less than 3 dedicated FB groups to AF lost luggage each with >1k current members, a record matched by no other airline that I can see.
    So if you must then go short haul, hand luggage only folks!

  • lumma says:

    Seems a waste of virgin points imo. Taxes plus transport to Paris costing around the same as economy flights from London on Emirates or Etihad

    • babyg says:

      the AirFrance option isnt bad when you look at how much the fees+taxes are flying with virgin to DXB (assuming you can get a reward flight). Cheap/reward flight to CDG are easy to find…

      • Rob says:

        The way we saw it was that we saved £1k on APD and other charges by starting in Paris, and reinvesting a bit of that in 3 Eurostar tickets and a sightseeing day in Paris (with an overnight too) was both good value and interesting for the kids.

    • AspirationalFlyer says:

      I tend to agree, especially where you have status. It’s not a long flight too.
      I’m taking a daytime flight to Doha and have no issue with being down the back.
      But maybe that’s just me. I love flying and travel in all classes!
      And that being said, I’d love to travel Air France First Class!

  • ADS says:

    currently there’s just a single daily Etihad flight from AUH to Paris

    whereas Etihad have four daily flights from AUH to Heathrow

    does that say more about Heathrow or about CDG ?!

    • Rob says:

      May say more about the willingness of the French to give them slots ….

      • The real Swiss Tony says:

        London’s connectivity to the UAE is abnormal. I was supposed to fly BHX-FRA-DXB last month. The BHX-FRA flight ended up running so late I would miss my connection. I figured given the frequency of flights out of London, there would be plenty of options from Frankfurt, into either DXB or AUH. But then I looked at the timetable. I would have been stranded in FRA overnight (I was booked on a 2pm departure) or left to go via Turkey and land at 5am.

        Thankfully someone saw the light and rebooked me on the nonstop EK flight from B’ham.

        • Londonsteve says:

          You mean to say that Lufty willingly booked you onto an Emirates flight? That’s impressive customer service in this day and age.

          • Rob says:

            Lufty once booked me onto an Emirates flight, when fog at Heathrow meant LH cancelled my connection to Frankfurt to Dubai.

          • tony says:

            I think it was the fact I managed to speak to the handling agents at bhx as their local phone number was helpfully on the bhx website that was the winning call. And I was HBO so it was easy.

            Once it was confirmed that the connection wouldn’t work it was very slick. I just got an email with my new ticket, did olci, walked straight into the Emirates lounge and the ladies there then took care of the other bits. Once the Lufthansa flight closed, I then got a call from the handling agent just to check all was ok! Swissport get a lot of stick but they really impressed me.

            When I spoke to Lufthansa on the phone, they wanted me to go to Frankfurt and sort it there.

          • tony says:

            Oh and to make the deal even sweeter, it was an award booking AND the EK booking let me reserve a limo on arrival in Dubai!

  • David says:

    Handy for us with a big operation at CDG and one in the new AUH Midfield Terminal starting in November. Will give it a go. 😉

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