Understanding the differences between Virgin Atlantic’s 3 economy fare types

Mar 7, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic offers three different cabins on its aircraft: economy, premium economy and Upper Class (its version of business class). But did you know its economy cabin offers three very different fare types?

For starters, all three economy fare types include the following, which you would expect from a full-service Virgin Atlantic flight:

  • A seat in the economy cabin of the aircraft;
  • Hand luggage on board;
  • All meals, snacks and drinks;
  • In-flight seat back entertainment; and
  • The ability to earn Flying Club miles for the flight.

The three fare types, called Light, Classic and Delight then differ as follows:

Category Economy Light Economy Classic Economy Delight
Checked baggage Not included 1 x 50 lb bag* 1 x 50 lb bag*
Seat selection Available during check-in process (can pay $40 extra to select in advance) Available anytime Available anytime
Seat type Standard legroom seat Standard legroom seat Extra legroom seat
Upgrade with Flying Club miles No Yes Yes
Priority check-in No No Yes
Priority boarding No No Yes

*Passengers flying to or from Delhi, Mumbai, Lagos and Johannesburg have a different baggage allowance.

So why are there three different options for the same cabin? Virgin says it is about giving passengers more choice in how they travel and not paying for things they don’t want or need. Don’t need checked luggage for a cheeky weekend in NYC? Don’t pay for it. Really want seat selection to ensure you sit next to your travel partner? There’s that option there, too. Economy Delight comes with loads of perks that airlines usually reserve for their elite status members who are flying economy — now everyone has the choice to pay for these benefits.

The three options also help Virgin compete with Norwegian on many of the same routes to the United States, which offers very low headline fares similar to the Economy Light option with Virgin. Where you see fantastic sale fares advertised with Virgin Atlantic, it will most likely be Economy Light options. I would argue that an Economy Light fare with Virgin would be better than the same on Norwegian, as Norwegian does not include a cabin bag, food or drinks for free on its cheapest fares, whereas Virgin Atlantic does.

Related: Norwegian Air implements fees for cabin bags, increases checked-luggage allowance

Photo by Jean Arnas/The Points Guy
(Photo by Jean Arnas/The Points Guy)

How much does each option cost?

Looking at a return trip on the busy London to New York route in March I can see fares priced as follows:

  • Economy Light — $350
  • Economy Classic — $481
  • Economy Delight — $573

So for a cheap sale fare, Classic is $130 more than Light, or almost 40% more. Delight is around 20% more than Classic and more than 60% more expensive than Light.

There are two ways to look at this. You could take the position that Light is incredibly cheap for a trans-Atlantic flight on a full-service airline — Norwegian may be a similar price and also not include seat selection or checked bags but it won’t include a cabin bag and food and drinks like Virgin does.

Another way to look at it is that the Classic and Delight fares are significantly more expensive than the Light option, so consider if you need all those extras that are bundled together in Classic and Delight fares if you are trying to decide between the three. If you can get away with hand luggage only for a long weekend and don’t want to upgrade your fare with miles, remember that you can pay $40 per person for seat selection if you wish — even doing that both ways you’ll still save money versus the Classic price.

Related: Crowd pleaser: A review of Virgin Atlantic’s A350 in economy from London to New York

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic has split its economy cabin into three different fare options. You only need to pay for what you use and you have the choice between very cheap fares without any bells and whistles through to fares with just about everything you could possibly offer an economy passenger. Always keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic is a full-service airline so you can earn miles as well as enjoy food, drinks and entertainment on all flights.

Featured photo by Nick Ewen/The Points Guy.

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