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Virgin Atlantic guts biz class awards – old and new award charts side by side

by on Mon October 31, 2016 • No Comment
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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is making big changes to award prices and how you earn miles from flying, and there’s a mix of big disappointment and some wins. We’ll focus here on showing how the prices for reward flights are changing and how you should respond.

Here’s what’s happening:

It’s introducing two price levels. One for ‘Peak’ dates, which are basically the Summer months, two weeks around Christmas, and three weeks around Easter, and another ‘Standard’ price for the rest of the year. If you have a family awards will become generally more expensive if you only travel during these Peak times. For 2017 the Peak dates are March 31 to April 18, June 22 to September 6, and December 13 to December 31.

There is an updated ‘miles plus cash’ scheme. This is supposed to give you some more flexibility, but miles plus cash schemes are usually not a great deal.

It’s changing base reward and upgrade prices. There are improvements and losses reflected in the charts below, with improvements in green and losses in red. The new prices take effect January 17, 2017, so you have until January 16 to take advantage of the old prices if those are better for you.

Reward flight price chart

All prices roundtrip in 000s of miles

virginawardchart

Upgrade price chart

All prices roundtrip in 000s of miles

virginupgradechart

What’s good

  • Economy and Premium Economy rewards are getting cheaper much of the year – you can now fly from New York to London for 20,000 miles roundtrip on Standard dates versus 35,000 miles before.
  • Upgrades from Economy to Premium Economy are cheaper all year round – a New York to London upgrade is 17,400 miles roundtrip versus 30,000 miles before during Standard months, and 27,400 miles during Peak periods.
  • Virgin is giving through January 16, 2017 to book reward flights at the old prices, so you have ample time to make plans with the miles you already have.
  • Partner reward prices, such as those for Delta flights, are (for now) unchanged.

What’s bad

  • Economy and Premium Economy rewards are getting modestly more expensive during the Summer months and Christmas / Spring holidays – You’ll pay 40,000 miles from New York to London roundtrip in Economy versus 35,000 miles before.
  • Upper Class rewards are more expensive almost across the board – A New York to London reward is now 95,000 miles roundtrip on Standard dates and 115,000 miles on Peak dates versus 80,000 miles before.
  • Upgrades to Upper Class are getting more expensive almost across the board, though upgrades from the Northeast US (New York, DC, Boston) are increasing by just 1,200 miles roundtrip during Standard periods. An upgrade of an Economy ticket from New York to London will cost 71,200 miles roundtrip compared to 70,000 miles before, while on Peak dates that increases to 86,200 miles.
  • Fuel surcharges are unchanged, but they were terrible to begin with so we’ll call leaving them unchanged something bad.

Is it worth it to use Virgin miles?

If you have a stash of Virgin points, or are thinking of transferring them from a partner like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou, the most lucrative way to use Virgin Atlantic miles isn’t to use them on Virgin flights.

Instead, it’s to use them on Delta Airlines flights from the U.S. to Europe with no fuel surcharges.

You can get to Europe on any Delta flight from the US to Europe in Business Class for 100,000 miles roundtrip all year round, compared to at least 140,000 miles if you tried to use Delta’s own miles.

virgindelta

Those prices (for now) aren’t changing, with Virgin saying it hasn’t made any changes to the spending rates when you use Flying Club miles for Delta flights, but if you have a Delta reward in mind, consider booking it sooner rather than later. You can already book reward flights for most of next year.

virgindelta

Overall, the news is not good if you like to use miles for Upper Class flights. Now the cheapest way to fly Virgin’s Upper Class is via ANA Mileage Club, which lets you book for 88,000 miles roundtrip all year round from all U.S. cities Virgin Atlantic serves. ANA is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, so it’s easy to earn lots of ANA miles without flying.

 

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