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I have only ever held top tier status with two airlines – American Airlines and British Airways – but it looks like a couple of fares that I managed to book over the weekend may be my ticket to top tier status with Virgin Atlantic as well.
While I was scrolling through my Twitter feed on Saturday I spotted a tweet from FrequentMiler discussing some incredible Business Class fares on offer between Budapest and the US.
I checked out the deals and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – roundtrip Business Class fares between Budapest and the US at around $800 roundtrip!
I was convinced that I was looking at a “mistake fare” (which meant that the fare could disappear in minutes) and once I realized that I could book these fares all the way to the West Coast I set to work seeing what I could find that would fit into my schedule.
I did better than I could have possibly hoped.
I booked two roundtrip fares between Budapest and Los Angeles that will take place in a 42-day window spanning the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
The first fare I booked was through Delta for the following routing…
…while the second fare I booked was through Air France and with a very slightly different routing:
There were two incredible things about both of these fares:
- They cost under $810 roundtrip
- They booked into flexible/refundable booking classes
The Delta booking cost me Ft250,400 (which Google converts to $809.30) and will allow me to review Delta’s 777 Delta One Suites between Paris CDG and Los Angeles and the considerably older (and inferior) KLM 777 Business Class product between Los Angeles and Amsterdam:
My booking through Air France cost Ft248,500 (which Google converts to $806.85) and will give me the chance to review Air France’s old A380 Business Class cabin on both long-haul sectors (assuming the airline is still flying A380s by the time my trip comes around):
Where To Credit These Fares?
While I was booking these fares I didn’t give any thought as to which loyalty program I would credit the flights to (I was far too busy trying to get everything locked in before the fares were pulled) but, on reflection, I have three programs to choose from:
- Delta SkyMiles: I’ve ruled out the SkyMiles program because I don’t particularly want to earn Delta SkyMiles, I wouldn’t earn many miles because Delta bases earnings on the cost of the fare, and because Delta implements a minimum spend requirement for the purposes of earning elite status (requirements that I have no hope of meeting and no interest in meeting).
- Flying Blue: I’ve ruled out the Air France/KLM Flying Blue program because my flights would earn me comparatively few miles thanks to the fact that Flying Blue awards redeemable miles and elite credits are based on the price of the fare booked.
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Crediting to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club always seemed like it was going to be the best choice because I already have a Flying Club balance and because I quite like the currency (for a very specific reason) but the clinching argument came when I worked out what my earnings would be.
Virgin Atlantic Earnings
Earnings on my Delta Booking: (link to Virgin’s Delta earnings page)
Earnings on my Air France Booking: (link to Virgin’s Air France earnings page)
The fact that the amazing deals I’ve booked are for refundable fare classes means that the elite tier earnings on offer are fantastic and, as long as I’ve understood correctly how Virgin Atlantic’s status tiers work (it’s not as simple as it should be!), I should be set to earn Virgin Atlantic Gold status (top-tier) with these two trips alone.
Here’s how I think things will work:
- I hold no Virgin Atlantic status right now.
- After the 3rd sector of my first trip, I will have earned the 400 tier points needed for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver status.
- Upon reaching Silver Status my tier point counter will reset to zero and my elite status year will begin.
- Once I reach Silver Status I then have a year in which to earn the next 600 tier points (for a total of 1,000 tier points) to earn Virgin Atlantic Gold status.
- I should earn exactly 600 tier points from my second trip and lock in Flying Club Gold status.
Assuming all of that is correct (and I think it is) these two trips will end up costing me a little over $1,615 and they’ll earn me approximately 63,500 Flying Club Miles (which I value at $635) and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club top tier status too.
For the math to be entirely accurate, I would also have to account for the cost of my positioning flights to/from Budapest as well as the airport hotel I’ll need at the beginning of both trips (none of which I have yet booked)…but this is still a phenomenal deal.
Virgin Atlantic Gold Status
I’ve never even considered earning Virgin Atlantic status so, before this weekend, I had no clear idea what Gold status offers…but here are the main benefits in brief:
- 60% bonus redeemable miles on all Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights
- Pool miles with up to 9 other flyers in a household account or nominate someone for Silver status.
- Upper Class check-in and priority boarding regardless of the cabin of travel
- Free access to exit rows when booking “Economy Classic”
- Free seat assignments for status older and all companions (even for basic economy fares)
- Extra baggage allowances
- Access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses (+ 1 guest) when flying with Virgin or Delta
- Access to the Virgin Atlantic “Revivals” arrivals lounge at London Heathrow
- Enhanced benefits with Delta (details):
- Extra baggage
- Priority check-in & boarding
- Complimentary access to Delta Comfort+ at the gate
- Sly Club Lounge access when traveling transatlantic to/from the UK
- Enhanced benefits with other partner airlines (Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia)
I’m not sure how many of these benefits I’ll actually get to use (I’ll probably still be going for top-tier oneworld status in 2021) but I’m sure Joanna will enjoy being gifted Flying Club Silver status and I may be tempted to book a few good value Premium Economy fares between London & LA now that I’ll have access to the impressive Clubhouse and the Revivals lounge in London and a Sky Club in LA.
Assuming I’ve not overlooked something when working out how Virgin Atlantic awards status it looks like I will be stumbling into Flying Club Gold status in a little under a year’s time without actually realizing that’s what was going to happen when I was booking these trips.
I booked the amazing fares between Budapest and Los Angeles purely because I have a need to fly between Europe and LA and because the prices were so incredibly low – working out how many miles and tier points these fares will earn me was an afterthought and had no bearing on my decision to book. That doesn’t happen very often with me! 🙂
The truth is that as nice as it may be to have another top-tier status under my belt it’s not really all that important to me. What is important is that I’m finally going to have a chance to try out the Delta One Suites (assuming there’s no disappointing aircraft swap) and I’ll be getting a chance to review Air France and KLM business Class cabins too – from a blogging point of view it’s going to be great to have a number of new (to TFM) cabins to write about.