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How does Virgin Atlantic’s guaranteed reward seat availability and ‘any seat for a Gold’ work?

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Back in June 2022, Virgin Atlantic decided to match British Airways and move to guaranteed reward seat availability on every flight for Virgin Flying Club members.

Since Virgin Atlantic has smaller cabins than British Airways, and far smaller premium cabins, this was an expensive move which almost certainly cost it revenue in peak season. It was the right move, however.

18 months on from the launch, I thought it was worth looking again at how it works.

Virgin Atlantic's guaranteed reward seat availability

Virgin Atlantic guarantees 12 award seats per flight

Since June 2022, Virgin Atlantic has guaranteed 12 award seats on EVERY Virgin Atlantic flight.

This comprises:

  • eight seats in Economy

I’d prefer to see four seats in Upper Class – after all, the majority of Virgin Flying Club members with large balances will be older and have families – but this was a massive improvement. It was especially impressive given how tight Virgin Atlantic reward availability had been running up to June 2022.

How far out can you book?

Virgin Atlantic has a 331 day booking window (British Airways is 355 days).

This is slightly inconvenient if you have the choice of using Avios or Virgin Points for a trip, since you need to decide at 355 days whether to take the BA option or take a chance of grabbing the guaranteed Virgin Atlantic seats.

Seats tend to become available at 5am. This is a side effect of Virgin Atlantic adopting the same booking used by its US shareholder Delta Air Lines.

Virgin Atlantic guaranteed reward availability

Remember that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards have a 2-4-1 or upgrade voucher

I don’t want to talk about the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards in detail here, but you can get a 2-4-1 voucher for a Virgin Points redemption – which is also good for an upgrade if you are travelling solo – on the UK Virgin Atlantic credit cards.

One key difference to the British Airways American Express cards is that the free Virgin Points credit card gives the SAME voucher as the paid card.

You need to spend twice as much to trigger it – £20,000 of spend on the free card vs £10,000 on the £160 paid card – but once you have the voucher the benefits (use it in any class) and the validity (two years) are identical. This makes the free Virgin Atlantic card FAR more attractive than the free British Airways American Express card.

The only downside is that, unless you have Silver or Gold status in Virgin Flying Club, the ‘2-4-1’ voucher isn’t a ‘2-4-1’ in Upper Class. You need to pay 50% of the Virgin Points needed for the second seat, so it’s actually a ‘buy one, get one for half price’ voucher. It IS a true ‘2-4-1’ in Premium or Economy. Anyone can use the voucher to upgrade to Upper Class from Premium.

The upside is that the Virgin Atlantic credit card vouchers work on cash tickets as well as reward. Buy a cash ticket, get another for free (taxes and chages must be paid), although the Upper Class restriction for non-elites remains.

Our review of the free Virgin Atlantic credit card is here and you can apply here.

Our review of the paid Virgin Atlantic credit card, with a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points, is here and you can apply here.

Virgin Atlantic also introduced ‘double points’ availability for Gold members

Virgin Atlantic also copied British Airways and opened up its own version of BA’s ‘Gold Priority Reward’.

A Virgin Flying Club Gold member can book ANY SEAT on ANY FLIGHT if they use double Virgin Points.

The only rule is that you book 60 days in advance (the British Airways equivalent is 30 days).

Virgin Atlantic guaranteed reward seat availability

To be honest, there is not a huge amount of value here in premium cabins. On British Airways, it only makes sense for most people on European short-haul flights at super-peak dates.

There are very few places where I can see the value in using double Virgin Points, although the Caribbean and South Africa over Christmas and New Year may be attractive for some.

In Upper Class, most routes would require around 200,000+ Virgin Points and close to £1,000 in taxes and charges using ‘double points’, which rarely makes sense.

That said, if you are points rich and are tied to specific travel dates, this is a benefit which can pay off handsomely. As my wife has 1.2 million Virgin Points, I probably fall into this category.

The maths looks better if you can book the two guaranteed seats in Upper Class or Premium at standard rates when they become available and use ‘double points’ for a third and possibly fourth seat for your children.

Conclusion

The move to guaranteed availability put Virgin Flying Club back in the game. You can’t deny it. However much flyers enjoy the Virgin Atlantic service and Clubhouse lounges, the lack of Upper Class reward availability had impacted the willingness of some to commit to the airline.

Things are now different. Well, at least if you don’t have any children – anyone with kids isn’t taking advantage of guaranteed availability anytime soon, given the cap of two seats in Upper Class and two seats in Premium …..

The move to increased leisure flying, such as the recent launches of Dubai, Turks & Caicos and the Maldvies, has also made Virgin Points a more interesting proposition.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (June 2024)

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, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 18,000 Virgin Points and the free card has a bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

3,000 bonus points, no fee and 1 point for every £1 you spend Read our full review

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 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 40,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 40,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

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 (37)

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

  • Froggee says:

    If I had 1,000 Virgin miles for every time Rob highlighted his wife’s large balance then I’d have more than her!

  • Tiberius says:

    I have been trying to book a flight from Riyadh to Bahrain with Virgin points/AMEX MR. SaudiA is a SkyTeam partner but virgin say they don’t hold any seats on that route?! Anyone know if that’s normal or how to use Amex points to Al Fursan/SaudiA miles?

  • JohnF says:

    Long may the UC seats be limited to 2 at the release date. Anything to limit the number of under 5s on an overnight flight!!!!!

  • camille55 says:

    “That said, if you are points rich and are tied to specific travel dates, this is a benefit which can pay off handsomely. As my wife has 1.2 million Virgin Points, I probably fall into this category”.

    In a similar category, having recently hit 7 figures with Flying Club. Most people with kids will likely be tied to specific travel dates. For us, the VS “Gold Reward Seat” (which is what they call it) has been helpful for non-US long haul in Y and PE with great savings & convenience. Yes it might sometimes be Y, but we can deploy this benefit for max time away during Half-Terms especially: straight to LHR on Friday after school closes (or Saturday AM), then back the day before school re-opens. Those flights are normally full and redemptions are unlikely.

    Note with GRS you are restricted to 8 sectors per Gold member per annum. Happily, we have 2 x Gold members in the family, means Clubhouse entry for 4 or 5 even travelling in Y is sorted (pay for the odd pax) and they generally give us bulkhead when in Y so onboard is not so bad (our family is not as tall as Rob’s!).

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

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