Virgin Atlantic exclusive: Guaranteed award seats, Gold members book any seat for 2x points

Jun 28, 2022

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Some loyalty programs have come under increased scrutiny recently for reducing the amount of rewards seats made available to members, including the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

There are some positive moves, however.

For example, with the new British Airways Companion Vouchers, extra award availability has now opened up when using the vouchers and there are certain discounted business class cash fares available.

We can now exclusively reveal that Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club has added two significant new benefits.

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1. A guaranteed minimum number of award seats on all flights

The first new benefit is that a minimum of 12 award seats will be initially available on every Virgin Atlantic-operated flight as soon as the flight is put on sale. These minimum twelve seats will be available as:

  • Two seats in Upper Class
  • Two seats in Premium
  • Eight seats in Economy

There are no blackout dates for this minimum seat guarantee, meaning those Flying Club members booking ahead will have more options for school holidays and Christmas in 2023.

This does not mean there will always be 12 seats available at all times for every flight, but only when the flights are loaded 331 days in advance. Once Flying Club members redeem the 12 seats, there may be extra seats added, or there may not. For peak periods, anyone looking to redeem Virgin Points should book well in advance.

All flights departing from July 29, 2022, onwards will include this minimum guarantee unless 12 seats have already been redeemed before June 29, 2022, or the flight has sold out.

This means if you have your eye on a particular Virgin Atlantic flight or route and have struggled to find the availability you should check back from midday on June 29 as extra award seats may be loaded then.

Related: 3 great ways to redeem Virgin Atlantic points now that Delta awards are devalued

2. Gold members can book any seat with double points

The second new benefit allows Gold members to book a Gold Reward Seat. This allows Gold members to pay for a reward seat in any cabin, even when there is no A, P, or G fares available. You’ll need to pay double the usual points and book more than 60 days in advance.

Just like the upgrade reward and companion reward earned through the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, you can only book these over the phone or via web chat.

Related: Virgin Atlantic adds ability to earn Tier Points on award flights, extends elite status by additional 6 months

This Gold benefit is set to launch on June 29, 2022. Here’s what we know so far:

Who can book?

Only Gold Flying Club members can book Gold Reward seats. They must also be Gold at the time of booking and must travel on the booking. However, other Tiers and non-members can be included in the booking.

What classes of travel can you book?

All revenue booking classes in Economy, Premium and Upper Class are eligible, excluding Economy Delight and Light. Economy tickets can be booked in Economy Classic only.

inside Virgin Atlantic plane
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper-Class suites on the Airbus A350. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

When can you book?

This is the key restriction to this benefit. Tickets are bookable up to 60 days before departure, you’ll have to plan ahead for these. Gold Rewards issued at the launch of this new benefit will be valid during the member’s current membership year and bookings must be made in this period.

Gold Rewards triggered on renewal of Gold are valid for 12 months. You must book flights in this period. However, you can travel after, as long as you are Gold at the time of booking.

How much will a Gold Reward cost?

You’ll pay double the amount of points and the usual taxes, fees and carrier charges apply.

On certain routes, at certain times, this could save huge amounts of money.

For example, regular reward tickets are hard to come by in the next few months on certain Virgin routes such as Tel Aviv. A one-way economy ticket from Tel Aviv to Heathrow could set you back as much as $853 in September around the Jewish holidays. However, utilizing a Gold Reward ticket will cost just 18,000 Virgin Points plus $70 in taxes and fees.

Beach in Tel Aviv Israel
Tel Aviv Beach. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

You’ll find sweet spots on other busy routes where you may need to travel on specific dates and where there are no available reward seats.

Using a Gold Reward, a return flight to New York will cost 40,000 Virgin Points plus $341 in taxes and fees in economy. It will cost 70,000 Virgin Points plus $647.58 in taxes and fees in Premium and 190,000 Virgin Points plus $1,208.57 in taxes and fees in Upper Class. Peak dates will cost more points.

Will you earn points on these bookings?

During the pandemic, Virgin changed its stance and now credits tier points on reward flights. The standard tier points will be awarded but not Virgin Points.

Can you change or cancel Gold Rewards?

You can cancel your ticket, but you cannot change the date, cabin or route on your ticket. You’ll have to cancel and rebook to change, which will be a problem if you need to make last-minute changes.

Cancellations will incur a fee of $36.59 for flights originating from the U.K., $50 for flights originating from the U.S. or the local currency equivalent of $50 for flights originating from any other region.

Can you combine Gold Rewards with other vouchers?

You won’t be able to combine a Gold Reward with Virgin’s upgrade or companion vouchers.

Other rules

  • You can book a maximum of eight sectors per membership year.
  • Gold redemption rewards cannot be gifted.
  • You cannot use Gold Rewards for Virgin Holidays or flight plus hotel package bookings.

Bottom line

The addition of Gold Rewards provides a true additional benefit to Gold members. If you’re close to achieving Virgin Gold, it may spur you to make the final jump to this elite level. The benefit will be particularly valuable on shorter, busy routes where award availability is hard to come by and cash prices are sky-high.

Additional reporting by Ben Smithson.

Featured photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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