You can now redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Air France and KLM flights
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Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program just received a great boost — starting today, Feb. 13, 2020, you can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on flights operated by Air France and KLM, following the further implementation of their joint venture agreement.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here, so here’s what you need to know.
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Short-haul redemptions on Air France-KLM
Flying Club has introduced a concept similar to British Airways’ popular and valuable Reward Flight Saver option for short-haul redemptions across Europe, at almost the same rates (plus fees and taxes which have not yet been disclosed and may vary from destination to destination):
|Distance flown (miles)||Economy (off-peak)||Economy (peak)||Business class
|0 – 600 miles||4,000||4,500||8,000||9,000|
|601 – 1,249 miles||7,500||8,500||25,000||26,000|
|1,250 – 1,749 miles||9,000||11,000||30,000||32,000|
Off-peak pricing applies: Jan. 6, 2020 to April 2, 2020; April 22, 2020 to June 19, 2020; Sept. 7, 2020 to Dec. 11, 2020; Jan. 6, 2021 to March 31, 2021
Peak pricing applies: April 3, 2020 to April 21, 2020; June 20, 2020 to Sept. 6, 2020; Dec. 12, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2021
There’s good and bad news here:
- Redemptions start from just 4,000 miles which is a fantastic use of Flying Club miles.
- While both Air France and KLM operate routes from numerous European airports, all of these fly directly to their hubs in Paris (CDG and ORY) and Amsterdam (AMS), so if you are traveling further afield, you will have to change planes at these hubs.
- Short-haul redemptions are charged per flight, just as British Airways does for its Reward Flight Savers. So if you are traveling from the UK via Paris or Amsterdam to, say, Rome (FCO), you would be charged one amount of miles from the UK to Paris or Amsterdam, and then another amount from Paris or Amsterdam on to Rome.
So, these rates are fantastic if you are just flying to Paris or Amsterdam, or only flying from Paris or Amsterdam, but not so great if you need a connection from past these hubs in Europe.
Long-haul redemptions on Air France-KLM
This is where it gets more interesting and potentially lucrative. Rather than using distance-based award rates like for short-haul flights, the long-haul redemptions are a zone-based award chart, meaning you can fly anywhere within one zone to anywhere in another zone for a fixed number of Flying Club miles, regardless of the actual distance flown.
Remember fees, taxes and charges apply and these have not yet been provided to TPG. Unfortunately, all three of the airlines involved in this venture (Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM) are notorious for adding expensive taxes to award tickets. While we don’t know what prices will be in this case, if current award taxes from these carriers are any indicator then I’m not optimistic.
There are 10 zones, including:
- Zone 1 — Western and Central Europe (including all flights from the U.K.)
- Zone 2 — Eastern Europe and North Africa
- Zone 3 — Middle East and Russia
- Zone 4 — Central Africa
- Zone 5 — Southern Africa, Indian Ocean and Indian Subcontinent
- Zone 6 — East Coast North America the Caribbean
- Zone 7 — West and Central North America, and Central America
- Zone 8 — South America
- Zone 9 — Far East Asia and Eastern Russia
- Zone 10 — Oceania
KLM does not have a first-class product, and unfortunately but not unexpectedly, Flying Club redemptions are not allowed in Air France’s spectacular La Premiere first-class cabin, which TPG recently voted as the world’s best first class. Premium economy redemptions are not allowed on KLM flights.
Long-haul redemptions using Flying Club miles on Air France or KLM are priced in three different award charts, for economy class, premium economy and business class.
Note that in the press release for these redemption amounts, Flying Club refers to peak and off-peak pricing for long-haul as well as short-haul, though have only provided us with long-haul charts reflecting off-peak pricing in each class. For peak pricing, add 10,000 miles to the price.
Here are the charts for each:
A positive with these long-haul award charts is that unlike British Airways Executive Club, redemptions are not priced per flight; rather, they are priced from your origin to your destination. For example, if you are flying from New York-JFK to Tel Aviv (TLV) via Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS), this would be priced as a single Zone 6 to Zone 2 rate, even though you are taking two flights and transiting a third zone.
If you redeemed British Airways Avios for the same origin and destination, you would be charged two separate rates, one from New York to London (LHR) and the other from London to Tel Aviv. This is a really great rule of the new Flying Club redemption options, especially for ultra-long-haul trips connecting through Europe.
How does this compare to existing rates?
You may be wondering if you should look at redemptions on Air France-KLM or fly Virgin Atlantic themselves, where they fly the same route.
Let’s compare some of the most popular destinations where both Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM fly. As Virgin Atlantic only flies from London I’ll only compare like for like. Pay extra close attention to the first two rows, which represent the differences between award rates from London to Zone 6 (eastern U.S.) and Zone 7 (western and central U.S.).
|Flying Club miles required for Virgin Atlantic flights, one-way per person (off-peak)||
Flying Club miles required for Air France-KLM operated flights, one-way, per person
|London to New York||10,000 (economy) / 17,500 (premium economy) / 47,500 (Upper/business)||12,000 (economy) / 24,000 (premium economy) / 48,500 (business class)|
|London to San Francisco||15,000 / 27,500 / 67,500||15,000 / 39,000 / 77,500|
|London to Hong Kong||12,500 / 22,500 / 57,500||21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000|
|London to Johannesburg||12,500 / 22,500 / 57,500||15,000 / 30,000 / 61,000|
|London to Tel Aviv||9,000 / 16,000 / 37,500||9,000 / 18,600 / 30,000|
|London to Mumbai||10,000 / 17,500 / 37,500||15,000 / 30,000 / 61,000|
So looking at the above comparisons, there are mostly not huge differences in the rates if you redeem Flying Club miles on Virgin Atlantic flights, or flights operated by Air France-KLM, though overall it slightly cheaper on Virgin Atlantic, especially for premium cabins on longer routes (and especially to Asia).
For flights between London and the U.S. you’ll pay a small premium in miles to fly with Air France or KLM instead of Virgin Atlantic (and remember we don’t know what the taxes will look like), but that might be worth the trade off to access more award space. Not only do Air France and KLM each serve many more U.S. destinations than Virgin Atlantic does, they both fly to many of the same cities, giving you even more options for finding award space.
How does this compare to British Airways Executive Club?
You may know the rates for destinations Virgin Atlantic fly to themselves, but this new partnership opens up a range of destinations that Virgin Atlantic or their existing partners don’t fly to, that you can now redeem miles for.
Let’s have a look at a few options that British Airways also fly to to see how the new rates compare. Since British Airways charges for each segment of an award ticket, we need to focus on flights to or from London to avoid artificially inflating the price by adding connections.
|Flying Club miles required for Air France-KLM operated flights, one-way, per person||
Avios required for British Airways operated flights, one-way, per person, off-peak
|Philadelphia to London||12,000 (economy) / 24,000 (premium economy) / 48,500 (business)||20,750 (WT/economy) / 41,250 (WTP/premium economy) / 62,000 (Club World/business)|
|Toronto to London||12,000 / 24,000 / 48,500||13,000 / 26,000 / 50,000|
|Mexico City to London||15,000 / 39,000 / 77,500||16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500|
|Tokyo to London||21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000||19,250 / 39,000 / 75,000|
|Kuala Lumpur to London||21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000||22,750 / 45,500 / 87,500|
|Nairobi to London||12,000 / 24,000 / 48,500||16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500|
|Seychelles to London||15,000 / 30,000 / 61,500||16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500|
Again, not a massive difference in price between the two programs, though for long-haul destinations like Asia, British Airways Avios definitely comes out on top.
Of course you might have a preference for one program or another if your final destination is London, Paris or Amsterdam, any of the hubs of the airlines involved in this joint venture. If you’re traveling somewhere else in Europe or connecting on to Asia or Africa, you can also consider the broader route network of the airline you’re flying with. All should have you covered for flights within Europe, but may have different schedules for long-haul connections.
What about Delta?
You may already know Virgin Atlantic works closely with Delta allowing Flying Club members to earn and burn Flying Club miles on Delta flights. There will be no change to this for Flying Club members with the new Air France-KLM options.
Elite status benefits
If you hold Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver status, you will now receive similar benefits flying Air France-KLM operated flights as you would flying Virgin Atlantic or Delta-operated flights, including:
- Priority check-in
- Priority baggage drop-off
- Priority boarding
Flying Club Gold status members will receive the same benefits as Silver status members above, as well as:
- Priority airport screening (where available)
- Priority customer service desks in airports (where available)
- Priority baggage handling and
- Additional baggage allowance.
Unlike Delta operated flights, Flying Club Gold status members will not receive the following:
- ‘Disruption prioritization’
- Standard seat selection
- ‘Ancillary seating products’
Earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can already earn Flying Club miles on the following flights:
- Virgin Atlantic marketed flights operated by Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Air France-KLM (i.e. with a Virgin Atlantic flight number);
- Delta marketed flights, operated by Virgin Atlantic or Delta (i.e with a DL flight number); and
- Air France-KLM marketed flights, operated by Air France-KLM.
From Feb. 13, 2020, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can also earn miles on the following flights:
- Delta marketed flights, operated by Air France-KLM; and
- Air France-KLM marketed flights, operated by Virgin Atlantic and/or Delta (i.e. with a Virgin Atlantic or Air France-KLM flight number).
In short, what this means is that you can earn Flying Club miles for any flight marketed by Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Air France-KLM provided it is operated by any of these carriers too. Note that while Air France, KLM and Delta are all SkyTeam alliance members, you cannot earn or redeem Flying Club miles on other SkyTeam airlines like Korean Air or Kenya Airways.
To earn Virgin Atlantic miles without flying, you have a number of options. Virgin Atlantic partners with most of the popular transferable points programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio, instant transfer) from cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1 ratio, instant transfer) from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- Citi ThankYou Rewards (1:1 ratio, instant transfer) from cards like Citi Premier℠ Card and Citi Prestige® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 ratio — with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points, less than 48 hours transfer) — you can earn Marriott points with cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
You can also earn Virgin Atlantic miles directly with the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®. Currently, you can earn up to 50,000 bonus miles within the first year: 30,000 bonus miles for spending at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days[ of account opening, plus additional bonuses for adding authorized users (2,500 each up to 5,000 total) and hitting spending thresholds.
The information for the Virgin Atlantic card, Citi Premier and Citi Prestige have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The new joint venture between the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program and Air France-KLM is exciting because it opens up so many new destinations that Virgin Atlantic and their existing partners don’t fly to. I’m pleased to see that they have implemented a low short-haul redemption system similar to British Airways Reward Flight Saver, though frustratingly unless you are headed to Paris or Amsterdam, you will have to pay two amounts.
There will be some unique sweet spots for redemptions on Air France and KLM long-haul that may even convince you to shift from Flying Blue (the loyalty program of Air France-KLM) or even British Airways Avios program. Stay tuned to TPG as we delve deeply into the new feature of the Flying Club program!
Ethan Steinberg contributed to this post.
Featured photo courtesy of Delta Airlines.
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