How to upgrade your next Virgin Atlantic flight with Virgin points

Jun 7, 2022

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There are plenty of different ways to use your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points — most notably, for reward flights. However, sometimes you can get the best value from those points by upgrading a flight.

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Eligible flights

You can upgrade your flight operated by Virgin Atlantic, subject to award availability in the class you wish to upgrade to. You can upgrade either one class — Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Premium, or Premium to Upper Class — or you can upgrade two classes — from Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Upper Class. Virgin Atlantic does not offer first-class fares.

Related: Lofty heights: A review of Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite on the A350 from London to New York

This is a real strength of the Flying Club program compared with British Airways Executive Club, which only allows you to upgrade one class with Avios.

The very cheapest Economy Light and Virgin Holidays fares (V, N and O codes) cannot be upgraded. So, your economy fare code must be the more expensive Classic or Delight fares (Y, B, R, L, U, M, E, Q or X codes).

To understand what fare code your ticket is, read our guide here. Fortunately, you can upgrade almost all Premium fares to Upper Class (W, S or H code fares). K fares are ineligible for upgrades.

You will still earn Virgin points and Flying Club tier points for the revenue fare class you paid for, but not for the higher class to which you are upgrading.

food on flight
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Finding availability

Each airline manages its upgrades differently. Some allow upgrades at the time of booking, while others process them at the absolute last minute based on seats they would not be able to sell.

Some show availability for upgrades and redemptions together, while others show availability for just redemptions or just upgrades. Virgin Atlantic’s availability is simple. The seats available for upgrades must also be available for a straight Virgin points reward redemption.

This makes searching for upgrade availability easy because it’s the same as searching for reward availability. At the same time, you may find that the upgraded seat in a premium cabin you are looking for has already been taken by someone else as a full redemption.

Virgin Atlantic does usually release some additional redemption and upgrade availability at the last minute, so if there are no upgrades available when you first search, it can be worth checking again a few days before the flight departs. You can try and upgrade anytime after booking, but you must do it prior to check-in — don’t wait until you’re at the airport or boarding gate.

For scenarios like this, ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) is an incredibly useful tool. With a subscription, you can set alerts for upgrades or redemption space. If space does open up, ExpertFlyer will send you an email right away so you can log in to book the newly available seat.

cabin Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Cost

The number of Virgin points required to upgrade your flight depends on whether you are traveling on a standard or peak date. The dates for 2022 are as follows:

Standard dates

  • Jan. 6-March 31.
  • April 26-May 29.
  • June 6-17.
  • Sept. 5-Oct. 20.
  • Nov. 2-Dec. 9.

Caribbean standard dates

  • March 7-April 6.
  • April 27-May 29.
  • June 6-July 15.
  • Sept. 5-Oct. 20.
  • Nov. 2-Dec. 9.

Peak dates

  • Jan. 1-5.
  • April 1-25.
  • May 30-June 5.
  • June 18-Sept. 4.
  • Oct. 21-Nov. 1.
  • Dec. 10-Dec. 31.

Caribbean peak dates

  • Jan. 1-March 6.
  • April 7-26.
  • May 30-June 5.
  • June 16-Sept. 4.
  • Oct. 21-Nov. 1.
  • Dec. 10-31.

Related: Premium, upgraded: A review of Virgin Atlantic’s new Premium product on the A350

Given Virgin Atlantic’s fairly small route network, the carrier offers a handy chart to show how many miles you’ll need to upgrade classes on both standard and peak dates.

Standard dates upgrade cost (round-trip, per person listed in Virgin points)

To/from United Kingdom Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Premium Premium to Upper Class Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Upper Class
Israel 16,000. 28,000. 42,000.
India 17,400. 37,400. 56,200.
Pakistan 17,400. 37,400. 56,200.
USA – Northeast (Boston, Newark, New York, Washington, D.C.) 17,400. 47,400. 71,200.
Caribbean 17,400. 57,400. 86,200.
USA – Midwest and South (Atlanta, Miami, Orlando) 22,400. 47,400. 71,200.
Nigeria, China and Hong Kong 22,400. 57,400. 86,200.
South Africa 25,000. 57,400. 86,200.
USA – West (Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle) 27,400. 67,400. 101,200.

 

Peak dates upgrade cost (round-trip, per person listed in Virgin points)

To/from United Kingdom Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Premium Premium to Upper Class Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Upper Class
Israel 20,000. 33,000. 49,500.
India 27,400. 47,400. 71,200.
Pakistan 27,400. 47,400. 71,200.
USA – Northeast (Boston, Newark, New York, Washington, D.C.) 27,400. 57,400. 86,200.
Caribbean 27,400. 67,400. 101,200.
USA – Midwest and South (Atlanta, Miami, Orlando) 32,400. 57,400. 86,200.
Nigeria, China and Hong Kong 32,400. 67,400. 101,200.
South Africa 42,400. 67,400. 101,200.
USA – West (Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle) 37,400. 77,400. 116,200.

 

If your upgraded class has higher taxes and fees, you will have to pay this at the time of upgrading, in addition to the Flying Club points. This is important to note because, for flights in premium classes, the luxury Air Passenger Duty is payable. This can increase the cost of the redemption by hundreds of dollars per passenger. Make sure to pay with a credit card that earns bonus points on airfare, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).

seats Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic premium economy. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

How to book your upgrade

Many airlines allow upgrades online at any time. Flying Club upgrades can only be booked by calling 800-862-8621, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays or 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Upgrades must be processed no later than the day before departure.

Featured photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images.

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