Virgin Atlantic Miles Are About To Become A Bit More Interesting

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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles don’t often get much love from miles & points bloggers because, essentially, they really aren’t all that useful for getting readers great value redemptions in good premium cabins. There is an exception to this that I discussed recently but, for premium cabin travel, Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t going to get many pulses racing. Having said that, they are about to get a bit more interesting…..and possibly even more useful.

In the past week there has been a hive of activity surrounding Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Air France/KLM and China Eastern and, while the individual details aren’t really important, the net result sees Virgin Atlantic owned by Delta (49% – no change), Air France/KLM (31% – big change!) and others.

The new 31% stake by Air France/KLM is the interesting bit.

Once the dust has settled on the M&A merry go round, flyers will be able to earn and burn Virgin Miles on Air France/KLM.

a large white airplane flying in the skyImage courtesy of Vincent Boyer via Flickr

On top of that, if you’re flying Virgin Atlantic and don’t want to earn Flying Club Miles, you will be able to credit your flights to Flying Blue (the Air France/KLM loyalty program).

As yet there are no details around earning and redemption rates but this counts as a big improvement to the Flying Club and, possibly, a big improvement on how flyers can use their Virgin Miles.

Up until now if you wanted to redeem Flying Club miles to/from Europe you had the choice of Delta or Virgin Atlantic and, if you were looking to fly in a premium cabin, that’s not exactly a choice you’re going to get excited about.

Delta’s Business Class cabin (Delta One) is old and, although I actually enjoyed my flight between NYC and Madrid, the hard product doesn’t come close to what you get on American Airlines (for example).

a seat in a planeDelta 767 Business Class (Delta One)

In addition, I recently reviewed the Virgin Upper Class product on the airline’s Airbus A330 and found it to be appalling and, despite the fact that the airline is refitting their Airbus aircraft with the same cabin as you’ll find on the Dreamliner, I don’t consider that to be a meaningful step forward. I won’t be flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class again any time soon.

a row of seats in an airplaneVirgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class – probably the worst modern Business Class cabin I’ve flown

But soon there will be a new option.

I’m a very big fan of Air France’s 777-300ER Business Class cabin (avoid the airline’s A380 if you can) and soon this should be bookable with Virgin Miles.

I reviewed the Air France Business Class product back in December and it is a HUGE improvement on anything you can book across the Atlantic with Virgin Miles right now.

a seat in a planeAir France 777-300ER Business Class

The seats are excellent and the service can be excellent too (it certainly was on my trip).

Let’s not forget the other bonus either…..

If you fly with Virgin Atlantic you should soon have another loyalty program in which to earn miles – Flying Blue.

Right now these are the airlines to whose loyalty programs you can credit Virgin Atlantic flights:

  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

If you’re in the position of taking regular Virgin Atlantic flights I suspect that not many of those are all that useful to you…..but Flying Blue probably will be.

Flying Blue offers “promo awards” on a monthly basis and these are awards that save flyers up to 50% on the miles they need to spend and they can be a great deal if one of your preferred destination comes up.

a screenshot of a travel websiteAn example of the currently available Flying Blue Promo Awards

Bottom Line

I’ve got a few Virgin Flying Club miles that I was planning to use for a Premium Economy redemption across the Atlantic as, since the recent changes announced to Flying Club, they’re an obvious sweet spot and I didn’t think the cabin and service were too bad when I reviewed it recently.

Now I think I may hold off.

Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of all three major transferable bank currencies (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points and Amex Membership Rewards) as well as being a transfer partner of Starwood’s Starpoints so it’s not hard to top up a Flying Club account.

I think I’ll wait and see how many Flying Club miles I’ll need for an Air France redemption and what sort of surcharges will be charged before I burn any Virgin miles now – if what they offer is even half-decent it will probably be a better use of miles than what’s on offer now.


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