The ultimate Virgin Atlantic Flying Club guide

Sep 20, 2020

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Flying Club is the loyalty program of Virgin Atlantic. It has some quirks — both good and bad — but can offer fantastic value if you dedicate the time to understanding the program.

In This Post

The Basics

Virgin Atlantic operates to a range of destinations across North America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia from its hubs at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester. Virgin operates a mix of Boeing 787, 747, Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft, as well as its A350 aircraft featuring brand new seats in each of the three classes: economy, premium (premium economy) and Upper Class (business class).

TPG is going to review as many Virgin Atlantic products as possible, so be sure to check back. For now, here are some to start with:

Earning Miles

You can earn Flying Club miles by crediting flights from the following airlines:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air China
  • Air France/KLM
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • SAS
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

Flying Club offers a fantastic miles booster where you can purchase miles at a cheap price based on the miles you would fly, on award or revenue tickets, in the future or in the past six months. Virgin also offers bonuses on this booster deal, making the miles even cheaper to acquire. You can read all about this offer here.

You can also transfer miles from Membership Rewards at a rate of 1:1. As you might expect, you can earn Flying Club miles with Virgin Hotels and Virgin Holidays as well.

There is also the ability to earn Flying Club miles directly with the following hotels:

Finally, you can earn Flying Club miles with miscellaneous partners like Virgin Money, Virgin Trains, and Hertz.

Virgin Atlantic A330 premium economy. Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy.

Redeeming Miles

You can redeem Flying Club miles for flights on the following airlines:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Australia

The process of redeeming for Virgin Atlantic-operated flights is easy. On the main booking page of VirginAtlantic.com, select the radio button that says pay with miles and complete your search:

TPG really likes the five-week flexible date search option and the calendar of results displayed. You can easily find availability and switch between economy, premium economy and Upper Class results and scan even more dates.

Unfortunately, when it comes to partner award searches with the engine, the site is very buggy.

You can use the Virgin Atlantic engine to find and book Delta-operated flights, but when you go to search routes, you’ll find the city you want will not always appear as an option. You may have to force the city by clicking the purple bubble icon and selecting region, etc.

Not all cities and countries are available in the drop-down list, and there’s no further workaround. If you want to fly a Delta route with Virgin Atlantic miles that’s not able to be populated by manually selecting the city, you have to call a Flying Club agent to find availability and book the route.

The next problem with the engine happens after forcing it to populate your desired route (if available). The option to select ‘pay with miles’ is often grayed out and cannot be selected:

I haven’t found a fool-proof process to ensure you’ll always be able to select ‘pay with miles’. My best practice is to complete an award search on a Virgin Atlantic route like New York to London where you can always select ‘pay with miles’, then click the refine search option in the upper-right portion of the screen and input the route you want to fly:

Even after completing the initial award search with ‘pay with miles’ selected, sometimes when you force-input the routing you want, the engine will revert back to ‘pay with card’. You just have to keep refining searches or starting over until the website allows you to select ‘pay with miles’. Incredibly frustrating, but worth the effort.

Delta One Suites. Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy)
Delta One Suites. Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy.

Redeeming for Virgin Atlantic-Operated Flights

As you can see from the above search examples, when you find flights operated by Virgin Atlantic (IATA code VS), the fuel surcharges are outrageous. We certainly don’t recommend paying $500 in taxes and fees for an economy-class flight — and you probably shouldn’t, either. Throughout the year, you can easily find economy revenue flights to Europe for less than the taxes and fees VS puts on award tickets. So, TPG doesn’t really recommend using this program to book Virgin-operated economy flights.

However, premium economy award tickets from London/Manchester to destinations like Boston, Washington and New York can be good value. For 17,500 miles per person, you can fly premium economy from Boston, Newark, JFK and Washington Dulles to the UK. That’s an excellent mileage rate for a good product, and I’ve recently used these miles in this exact way myself, obtaining a value of around 4p per mile, which is an excellent use.

Here are a few general notes for award flights booked with Virgin Atlantic miles, including partner-operated flights:

  • You can change your travel date, routing, and class of service for $39 (plus mileage difference).
  • You can cancel your ticket and receive all your miles back for a cancellation fee of $39.
  • You can put award seats on hold, even with partners, for 48 hours with no miles in your account.

Redeeming on Partners

Each partner has a different award chart — some are distance-based and others zone-based. Check each partner airline’s page for full details and terms and conditions. Besides Delta (and even for some Delta routes), you must call Flying Club at 0344 412 2414 to find partner availability and book tickets.

Air New Zealand, Hawaiian and Singapore Airlines don’t offer much value due to poor availability and pricing that’s in line or worse than what’s available through other partners. You should study the charts to see if your particular routing is competitive with your other award-booking options.

There are some fantastic sweet spots on partner airlines though, including:

  • 120,000 miles for a return first class flight from London to Tokyo on ANA;
  • 50,000 miles for a one way Delta One business-class flight from Europe to USA on Delta, with no fuel surcharges;
  • 2,000,000 miles to enter a raffle for a trip to space on Virgin Atlantic.

Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy.

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