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Virgin Atlantic has announced that in a little under a week’s time, the seating benefits associated with its Flying Club’s Silver Tier will be changing, and while the reaction to this news will depend heavily on what fares people normally book, I suspect most people will see this as bad news.
Current Silver Tier seating benefit
As things stand, a Silver Flying Club member booking an Economy Classic or Economy Delight fare can reserve a seat free of charge from the moment they make their booking.
In addition, a Silver Flying Club member booking an Economy Light fare only gets free seat selection at check-in. Not before.
All bookings in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy and Business Class (Upper Class) get free seat selection regardless of Tier status.
Well, the first thing to say is that anyone who usually books Premium or Upper Class flights can rest easy because no change is being made to the seating benefits associated with those cabins.
In Economy Class, however, the story is different.
For bookings made from 19 September 2023 onwards, Flying Club Silver Tier members will no longer be able to reserve their seats free of charge at the time of booking when booking any of Virgin Atlantic’s Economy Class fares.
Free seat selection for Silver Tier members booking Economy Class fares will only kick in within seven days of departure. There will still be the option to pay for seat selection from the time of booking, but Silver members wanting to reserve their seats without handing over any extra cash will have to take their chances in the week leading up to departure.
Note: This rule change does not apply to existing bookings or to bookings made by 18 September 2023.
Flying Club Silver members booking Economy Light fares will now have the option of free seat selection for the first time (albeit only in the 7 days leading up to departure), but I doubt that’s going to do much to offset the fact that the same Flying Club members will no longer be able to reserve their seats for free at the time of booking when booking Economy Classic or Economy Delight fares.
In truth, because Virgin Atlantic still charges Silver Tier members to reserve most of its exit row seats regardless of which Economy Class fare they book, this probably won’t be viewed as negatively as it would have been viewed had it been British Airways or American Airlines making this kind of announcement, but this will probably still annoy quite a few people.
Virgin Atlantic Silver Tier status may only be one step up from no status at all, but in a 3 tier program like Flying Club, it’s still a status that takes a bit of effort (and money) to earn – you don’t get given it for holding a credit card and you can’t earn it by using a credit card – so anyone annoyed by this change will probably be justified in feeling that way.
Frankly, I’m not sure what Virgin hopes to gain by making this change, and as I doubt that it will make much difference to the airline’s bottom line, I suspect that the only real effect will be to irritate a sub-section of the Flying Club’s population for no good reason at all.
If anyone from Virgin is reading this, please feel free to let us know what the thinking behind this change is.
If you currently hold Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Sliver Tier status, the Economy Class seating benefits that you have been enjoying up until now are about to change.
For all bookings made from 19 September 2023 onwards, Silver Tier flyers booking Economy Class fares will only have access to free seat selection once they’re within 7 days of departure.