Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Devalues and Makes Other Substantial Changes

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club have announced substantial changes to their frequent flyer programme. You can read about them at this webpage, and alternatively by following this link. A quick review suggests that Virgin Atlantic are copying many of the changes British Airways Executive Club implemented over a year ago.

Award Chart Changes

My first instinct when reading about major changes is… what is going to happen to my stash of miles? What does the new award chart look like?

vs-award-chart-2017

The new award chart will be functional on 16 January, 2017.

Like BAEC before them, Flying Club have decided to implement peak and off-peak pricing. Peak dates in 2017 are going to be:

  • 31 March until 18 April
  • 22 June until 9 September
  • 13 December until 31 December

The current award chart looks like this:

vs-award-chart-2016

So, it’s not hard to notice that:

  • Upper Class awards are going to cost more miles, occasionally over 50% more.
  • Premium Economy and regular Economy awards are going to remain roughly the same for peak dates, but cost fewer miles at off-peak times.

Some people may be surprised by that second point – Economy and Premium Economy awards becoming cheaper. But it’s important to remember that:

  • Flying Club already regularly offer award sales for Economy and sometimes Premium Economy seats. I wrote about the last sale which was in September 2016 here.
  • Taxes and surcharges make up a substantial portion of any cheap airfare. Therefore Flying Club would charge members – for a supposed AWARD – 50-80% of the cost of a regular ticket. Lowering the miles requirement at off-peak periods therefore makes sense to tempt people to book awards instead of regular tickets.

If you are planning on booking a Virgin Atlantic award flight in Upper Class (Business Class), you’d better do it before 16 January, 2017. The same advice applies for any other potential award flights that will cost more after 16 January. I suspect that simple date changes will be allowed (without costing any more miles), but itinerary changes will require a re-pricing.

Upgrades

With the award chart changing, upgrades are also changing. It’s worth reading the post I wrote several months ago about upgrading Virgin Atlantic tickets. Flying Club have arranged for upgrades to be simpler than the British Airways version (where upgrades to Business Class cost more on off-peak dates than peak dates). Although a chart was provided…

vs-upgrades-2017

All you really need to know is that:

  • In order to upgrade from Economy to Upper Class (not all cheap economy fares qualify), you need 75% of the miles for a full Upper Class award
  • In order to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy or from Premium Economy to Upper Class, you need 50% of the relevant miles

Although you earn miles on the underlying ticket, with the reduction in mileage earning on economy fares, it appears logical to me to just book full awards whenever possible, rather than messing around with booking expensive economy fares and then calling Flying Club to upgrade…

Mile Earning Changes

Like BAEC, Flying Club is also reducing the number of miles earned on Economy fares, and increasing them on more expensive fares. These changes will occur on 13 November, 2016. However, if you booked your flight already, you will earn miles based on the higher of the current system or the new system.

Currently, Flying Club members earn the following

Economy: 100%
Premium Economy (K,H): 125%
Premium Economy (W,S): 150%
Upper Class (I,Z): 150%
Upper Class (J,D,C): 300%

For tickets booked after 13 November, 2016, Flying Club members will earn:

Lowest Economy (E, Q, X, V, N, O): 50%
Low Economy (L, U, M): 100%
Flexible Economy (Y, B, R): 150%
Low Premium Economy (H, K): 100%
Flexible Premium Economy (W, S): 200%
Low Upper Class (I, Z): 200%
Flexible Upper Class (J, C, D): 400%

As expected, leisure travelers lose out, even those travelling in Premium Economy. Business travelers on flexible tickets will do much better…

Other Changes

I will write about the changes in elite status qualification and family accounts at a later date…

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