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Virgin Atlantic Best Seats – Economy edition

November 14, 2019 | Tips | No Comments

Welcome to a three-part series covering the best seats on the Virgin Atlantic fleet. In this article I will be covering their Economy cabin, specifically the Economy Delight ticket type. Let me start by saying that any use of the word “best” is a little dangerous, because what I think is good, others may not agree with. But the purpose of this article is to point out some of the seats I like and the reasons I like them. You can then make your own choice.

747-400

Virgin Atlantic 747-400 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic 747-400 Economy Cabin Layout

The 747-400, soon to be retired from the Virgin fleet, appears mostly on the leisure routes from London Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. It never flies from London Heathrow anymore.

Economy Delight on the 747 starts at row 38, which is an exit row. Exit row seats are great for legroom, but not as wide owing to the fact that the tray tables are in the arm rest, so I would not recommend those. Overall, my usual advice of – take the left hand side seats (A/B/C) – is still relevant here. Left side of a wide body plane like the 747 are almost always off quicker than the right side.

Best seats for sleep – 43A/B/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/B/C combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 39C or row 25/26 A/B/C in Economy classic as that’s right in front of door 2L.

Virgin Atlantic 747-400 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic 747-400 Economy Cabin Interior

787-9

Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Cabin Layout

The 787 Dreamliner was Virgin’s newest Economy cabin, until the A350-1000 arrived. I must say, Economy Delight on the 787 is really not far off par with the Premium cabin. It’s a totally different seat, and it’s a 3x3x3 layout, but value for money is great. On day flights, you can take Economy Delight and earn the same miles & points as Premium, but for a hefty price saving. Sure, the seat is not as wide, but the legroom is similar. The food is less premium, but overall it’s a really smart choice to save some cash.  

The bulkhead row, 46, suffers the usual problem of additional legroom, but comes with the caveat of a narrower seat. Personally, I find this bulkhead to be uncomfortable, so I never opt to sit there despite the legroom. Row 51, seats A/B/C is my go to for Economy Delight on the 787 due to guilt free recline.

Best seats for sleep – 48A/B/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/B/C

Best seats for a quick exit – 47C

Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Cabin Interior

A330-200

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Economy Cabin Layout

You’re most likely going to find the A330-200 on the Caribbean or leisure routes out of London Gatwick or Manchester.

The A330’s have the benefit of having a 2x4x2 layout in Economy, which means if you can bag an A/C or H/K seat then you either get window or aisle, no middle seat which is good.  

As such, the A/C or H/K seats are the best choice, but there aren’t many to pick from as there’s only two rows on either side and the rest of the Economy Delight seats are between the aisles resulting in a 2x4x2 configuration on the -200 aircraft.

Best seats for sleep – 23A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 22C

A330-300

Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Economy Cabin Layout

The A330’s have the benefit of having a 2x4x2 layout in Economy, which means if you can bag an A/C or H/K seat then you either get window or aisle, no middle seat which is good.  The layout on the -300 aircraft is different to the -200, with Economy Delight rows starting at 49 for the centre and 51 for the outer rows. Personally, I’ll always take the A/C or H/K seats, but there is only one row in the centre, which is row 49 – the bulkhead row. The downside to the bulkhead is that the tray tables are in the arm rests, resulting in narrower seats.

One of the big benefits of the Economy Delight cabin on the A330-300, is that it is towards the middle of the plane, meaning you’re quite far from the bassinet positions, meaning less chance of a crying child in the vicinity of your seat.

Best seats for sleep – 51A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 51C

A340-600

Virgin Atlantic A340-600 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A340-600 Economy Cabin Layout

Economy Delight on the A340 is an even stranger affair than the A330’s owing to the fact that the Economy Delight product is far newer than the aircraft itself, meaning seats had to be juggled around to reconfigure the aircraft to this newly created sub-product of the Economy class. That means that there are two rows, 33 and 34 in the centre of the cabin and then four rows on the right hand side – 33H/K through 36H/K and then some more seats further towards the back at 53 & 54 A/C/H/K.

Best seats for sleep – 53A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 33D

Virgin Atlantic A340-600 Economy Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A340-600 Economy Cabin Interior

A350-1000

Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 Economy Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 Economy Cabin Layout

The A350 is the newest addition to the fleet, featuring newly designed Economy seats. This product does not exist on the rest of the fleet at the time of writing. Fortunately, the seating on the A350 seating is fairly consistent and is laid out in a 3x3x3 layout in the Economy cabin. This means it’s not too dissimilar to the 787.  

Best seats for sleep – 54 through 56 A/B/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/B/C or H/J/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 54C/D

Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 Economy Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 Economy Cabin Interior

 

Virgin Atlantic Best Seats – Premium edition

November 12, 2019 | Tips | No Comments

Welcome to a three-part series covering the best seats on the Virgin Atlantic fleet. In this article I will be covering their Premium cabin, also known as Premium Economy. Let me start by saying that any use of the word “best” is a little dangerous, because what I think is good, others may not agree with. But the purpose of this article is to point out some of the seats I like and the reasons I like them. You can then make your own choice.

747-400

Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Layout - Upper Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Layout – Upper Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Layout - Main Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Layout – Main Deck

The 747-400, soon to be retired from the Virgin fleet, appears mostly on the leisure routes from London Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. It never flies from London Heathrow anymore.

It’s rare that I recommend the upstairs Premium cabin to anyone flying on the 747. It is more exclusive, and it is quieter, which is why I recommend it for sleep, but it has an Economy Cabin behind it, meaning those in Premium on the Upper deck will not have a quick exit, so it comes with a fair caveat.

Premium on the 747 does not have the wander wall feature like the A330-300 or the 787-9 unfortunately. It’s also the largest premium cabin in the fleet and one of only two (the other being the A350) that has a 2x4x2 seating layout on the main deck.

Best seats for sleep – 20-24A/C/H/K

Best seats for couples – 20-24A/C/H/K

Best seats for a quick exit – 19C 19D

Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Cabin Interior - Upper Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Cabin Interior – Upper Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Cabin Interior - Main Deck
Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Cabin Interior – Main Deck

787-9

Virgin Atlantic 747 Premium Layout
Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Layout

The 787 Dreamliner was Virgin’s newest Premium cabin, until the A350-1000 arrived. The Premium cabin features slightly slimmer seats than some of the other versions of the Premium seat, but does offer nice touch screens for in-flight entertainment and a wander wall, which is essentially a help yourself snack area in the galley.

One of the downsides of the Premium cabin on the 787 is that the bassinets are the front of the cabin (row 21) and the Economy cabin to the rear, has bassinets at the front as well, meaning you’re potentially sandwiched between 2 sets of babies. There are only two bassinets at the front of the Economy cabin, which is why I recommend the rear of the Premium cabin for sleepers, who also benefit from no guilt recline.

The bulkhead row, 21, cannot be selected online due to the bassinet positions and can only be assigned at the airport, so be nice to the check in staff if you want those seats!

Best seats for sleep – 25A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 21A/C/D

Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Cabin Interior

A330-200

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Premium Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Premium Layout

The A330-200 only entered the fleet recently. It has a different Premium product to the other aircraft currently flying, owing to the fact that these aircraft were acquired from the defunct Air Berlin and Virgin needed to get them flying quickly due to issues with aircraft availability.

Best seats for sleep – Any A/C or H/K

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 14A/C/D

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Premium Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Premium Cabin Interior

A330-300

Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Premium Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Premium Layout

The nice thing about the A330-300 over the -200 variant is that it has been a staple of Virgins fleet for quite a while and has an almost identical Premium cabin to the 787-9 with the exception of the additional row of two seats towards the front left of the cabin. These seats are closer to the galley but offer additional privacy.

As such, my seating choices for this aircraft are almost the same as the 787.

The bulkhead row, 19/20, cannot be selected online due to the bassinet positions and can only be assigned at the airport, so be nice to the check in staff if you want those seats!

Best seats for sleep – 25A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 19A/C or 20D

Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Premium Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Premium Cabin Interior

A340-600

Virgin Atlantic A340 Premium Layout
Virgin Atlantic A340 Premium Layout

The A340-600 has the oldest cabin in the fleet, owing to the fact that the 747’s had a cabin refit. It doesn’t have much of its life left but is still flying. I rate Premium on the A340 the worst in the fleet, mainly due to the old In-Flight Entertainment, but the seats themselves aren’t bad. Premium on the A340 does not have the wander wall feature like the A330-300 or the 787-9 unfortunately.

There are only two bassinets at the front of the Economy cabin, which is why I recommend the rear of the Premium cabin for sleepers, who also benefit from no guilt recline.

Best seats for sleep – 22A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 18A/C/D

A350-1000

Virgin Atlantic A350 Premium Layout
Virgin Atlantic A350 Premium Layout

The A350 is the newest addition to the fleet, featuring 56 newly designed Premium seats. This product does not exist on the rest of the fleet at the time of writing. Fortunately, the seating on the A350 seating is fairly consistent. My main dislike about the A350 Premium cabin is that it is a 2x4x2 seating layout, whereas the rest of the fleet (excluding the 747) are 2x3x2 layout.

Best seats for sleep – 24A/C or 25A/C

Best seats for couples – Any A/C or H/K combo

Best seats for a quick exit – 21A/C

Virgin Atlantic A350 Premium Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A350 Premium Cabin Interior

Virgin Atlantic Best Seats - Upper Class Edition

Welcome to a three-part series covering the best seats on the Virgin Atlantic fleet. In this article i’ll be covering the Upper Class cabin, also known as Business Class. Let me start by saying that any use of the word “best” is a little dangerous, because what I think is good, others may not agree with. But the purpose of this article is to point out some of the seats I like and the reasons I like them. You can then make your own choice.

747-400

Virgin Atlantic 747 Upper Class seating plan
 The Virgin Atlantic 747 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The 747-400, soon to be retired from the Virgin fleet, appears mostly on the leisure routes from London Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. It never flies from London Heathrow anymore. It has a limited Upper Class cabin with only 14 seats, but it is one of the most exclusive cabins as it sits in the nose of the plane on the main deck, under the cockpit. That means the lucky two people sitting at the very front of the cabin can look out of the almost forward-facing windows and get a view not too dissimilar to what the pilots see from the cockpit, which is totally unique.

All of the 747’s in the Virgin fleet have a small bar in the middle of the Upper Class cabin, except one aircraft, Tinker Belle (G-VBIG).

The seating in the Upper Class cabin runs from row 6 to row 14. There is no row 1 through 5. The toilets are all towards the rear of the cabin, as well as the galley.

6A and 6K are the two special seats at the very front of the cabin, that have a partial view out of the front of the aircraft. They’re great for couples as they are very close together.

My personal preference for this aircraft in Upper Class is 9A or 9K. They’re right in the middle of the cabin, so benefit from not being right in front of the bar, and not being too close to the seat opposite like row 6 and 7.

Best seats for sleep – 6A, 6K, 7A, 7K

Best seats for couples – 6A/6K, 7A/7K

Best seats for socialising at the bar – 11A, 12A, 13A, 13K

Best seats for a quick exit – 12A, 13A

Virgin Atlantic 747 Upper Class Interior
Virgin Atlantic 747 Upper Class Interior

787-9

Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Cabin Seat Map
Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The 787 Dreamliner was Virgin’s newest Upper Class cabin, until the A350-1000 arrived. It has 31 Upper Class seats as well as a bar at the rear of the cabin. The Upper Class galley is at the front of the cabin, and all toilets for the cabin are towards the rear, near the bar.

Generally speaking, the A seats are the better seats as they are not opposite any other seats. The A aisle has seats on the left and the backs of the other aisle of seats on the right which means there’s less foot traffic, it’s slightly quieter and there’s more overheard locker space available. 1G is the only seat with a bassinet position, which is important if you are flying with a baby.

My personal preference is 1A (for ego sake) and then 8A, 9A and 10A. The big benefit to being on the left-hand side at the rear of the cabin, is that you will be the first off the plane, as disembarking is almost always done through door 2L – the door just behind those seats. 11A is a risky seat as it is a little too close to the bar, meaning if there are people socialising there – it can be a little disturbing.

The rear right hand side of the cabin is also a good choice, but the cabin crew control the exit flow of people in such a way that the A aisle will disembark before the G/K aisle, so if being off quick is your objective, the A aisle is the one to choose.

Best seats for sleep – 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A (note – 7A and 7K do not have a window on the 787)

Best seats for couples – any G/K combinations

Best seats for socialising at the bar – 10A, 11A, 9G, 10K, 11K

Best seats for a quick exit – 10A, 11A

Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Interior

A330-200

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The A330-200 only entered the fleet recently. It has a completely different Upper Class product to the other aircraft currently flying, owing to the fact that these aircraft were acquired from the defunct Air Berlin and Virgin needed to get them flying quickly due to issues with aircraft availability.

The 3 sets of double seats in the middle of the cabin are known as “love suites” and are ideal for couples of those travelling together.

The rest of the seats are referred to as either Solo Freedom Suites or Solo Corner Suites and are more ideal for passengers traveling on their own.

Due to not having a bar onboard, there isn’t really any issue with sitting right at the back of the cabin like there is on the other aircraft, so if quick disembarking is the goal, sit towards to back. 5A or 5K would be my choice on this aircraft.

Best seats for sleep – 3A, 2C, 2H, 3K

Best seats for couples – 1E/1F, 3E/3F, 5A/5F

Best seats for socialising – Not applicable as there is no bar onboard

Best seats for a quick exit – 5A, 6C

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Interior
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Interior

A330-300

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The nice thing about the A330-300 over the -200 variant is that it has been a staple of Virgins fleet for quite a while and has an almost identical Upper Class cabin to the 787-9.

As such, my seating choices for this aircraft are exactly the same as the 787.

Best seats for sleep – 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A

Best seats for couples – any G/K combinations

Best seats for socialising – 10A, 11A, 9G, 10K, 11K

Best seats for a quick exit – 10A, 11A

Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Upper Class Interior
Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Upper Class Interior

A340-600

Virgin Atlantic A340 Upper Class Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A340 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The A340 cabin is a little strange. It’s the largest Upper Class cabin currently in the fleet, at 45 seats. It also has a different layout, the middle row zig zags half way up the cabin. On the A330-300 and 787-9 the A aisle seats face the rear of the G/K aisle seats, whereas on the A340, the A aisle faces the D seats for the front half of the cabin and the rear half, the G seats face the K seats. It’s a little strange in my opinion. It does offer more capacity for couples though.

Anyway, the A row still has the best choice in my opinion, and I would opt for 9A to 17A as it does not face any other seats and the proximity to the bar isn’t too bad.

Best seats for sleep – 9A, 10A, 11A, 12A, 14A

Best seats for couples – 2A/3D, 3A/4D, 5A/6D, 6A/7D, 8G/8K, 9G/9K, 10G/10K, 11G/11K, 12G/12K, 14G/14K, 15G/15K.

Best seats for socialising at the bar – 16A, 17A, 16K, 17K

Best seats for a quick exit – 16A, 17A

Virgin Atlantic A340 Upper Class Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A340 Upper Class Interior

A350-1000

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Cabin Layout
Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Cabin Layout

The A350 is the newest addition to the fleet, featuring 44 newly designer Upper Class suites. This product does not exist on the rest of the fleet at the time of writing. Fortunately, the seating on the 350 is fairly consistent. The bar has been replaced with a lounge, at the rear of the Upper Class cabin.

Best seats for sleep – Rows 4-8 A/D/G/K

Best seats for couples – Any A/D or G/K combo

Best seats for socialising in the lounge – 11A/D/G/K

Best seats for a quick exit – 10A/D, 11A/D

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Cabin Interior
Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Interior

Singapore airlines economy class

I know so many people who go to the trouble of collecting miles, being loyal to a certain carrier or alliance and then waste the miles they earned on un-efficient purchases. The source of the problem is that most people think of miles as throwaway when in fact, they are just another form of virtual currency.

Most miles have a roughly defined value in pounds or dollars, so to give you an idea, this table details ten of the most popular airline frequent flier programs in the world and the value of their miles.

Frequent Flier Program

Value in Cents

American AAdvantage

1.4 cents per mile

British Airways Executive Club

1.3 cents per mile (avios)

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

1.2 cents per mile

Delta SkyMiles

1.2 cents per mile

Emirates Skywards

1.0 cents per mile

Etihad Guest

1.2 cents per mile

JetBlue TrueBlue

1.3 cents per point

Singapore Airlines Kris Miles

1.4 cents per mile

United Mileage Plus

1.4 cents per mile

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

1.2 cents per mile

Basic example

So, as a basic example, let’s say you’ve accumulated 100,000 miles from travelling for work on Etihad. Your 100,000 miles are worth roughly $1200 in virtual currency.

When you come to spend these miles, there’s good value purchases and bad value purchases. The rule of thumb for spending airline miles, is spend them on flights in premium cabins.

Wine

This is a common thing I see people doing, buying wine with miles. A quick look on some of the airline websites show that you can buy a mixed case of 6 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc for 14,800 miles or thereabouts (it varies). That’s value of $192.40 for 6 bottles of wine if the miles are worth 1.3 cents each. Now, sure, we’re not getting specific on the actual bottles but these kinds of deals aren’t because the airlines have copious amounts of quality wine to give away, they’re designed to take your miles from you for a bad exchange rate. Much like those currency exchanges at the airport, airlines want to give you the least product for the highest price. 

Onboard purchases

Much like wine, you can often purchase things onboard from the duty free store, using miles. The value of the item you’re buying is often inflated as it is, and the cash price will be less than the value of the miles, so again, these purchases are a scam to get you to spend those miles at a bad exchange rate.

Long Haul Economy flights

If there’s one thing you should never do, it’s purchase long haul economy flights with miles. Most airlines have pretty high fees, taxes and surcharges when you buy reward or mileage tickets. So when you factor in the value of the miles plus all these extra charges, you almost always loose out. 

The strategy here is to get the most value out of your miles when you make a purchase, so you should be aiming for the highest possible cabin (First, Business and then Premium in that order) to get the most value for your miles. One exception to this rule is when you buy economy flights for cash and then use miles to upgrade to the next cabin, they’re often very good value for money.

There are occasionally other exceptions to the rule as well. For example, British Airways have their Reward Flight Saver program which often offers great value for economy flights on short and medium haul destinations. 

Conclusion

Always do some basic maths before purchasing something with miles, if it comes out cheaper to purchase in cash, it’s a bad deal. If you’re getting more value per mile than the table above, then it’s a good deal. The higher dollar to mile ration you can achieve, the better. Remember, treat those miles like they’re cash in your pocket.  

Is my Virgin Atlantic Flight upgradeable?

July 8, 2019 | Miles, Tips | No Comments

Virgin Atlantic 787 aircraft

The short answer: Yes, if it meets certain conditions.

Finding ways of upgrading is one of the hottest topics for both the amateur and professional frequent fliers. But all too often, you call the airline and ask about an upgrade only for them to say “You can’t upgrade this flight”. Frustrating, right. Well this post will give you all the information you need to have a better chance of upgrading your Virgin Atlantic flight. 

Virgin Atlantic 787 aircraft

How do you find out if your flight is upgradeable?

Whether the flight is upgradeable depends on a few key factors, and sometimes these vary across airlines too.

The key factors are as follows:

  • Fare code.
  • Was the flight booked direct vs through a travel agent.
  • Cash vs miles upgrades.
  • In advance vs at the airport.
  • Availability.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however.

Virgin Atlantic fare codes

Cabin

Fare code

Upgradable?

Premium

K

No

H

Yes

S

Yes

W

Yes

Economy

O

No

N

No

V

No

X

No

Q

No

E

No

M

Yes

U

Yes

L

Yes

R

Yes

B

Yes

Y

Yes

 

Other fare codes to know about.

 

Fare code

Cabin

What it’s used for

T

The fare code used when you use your miles to pay for an economy cabin ticket.

Economy reward fare

P

The fare code used when you used your miles to pay, or upgrade to, a Premium cabin ticket.

Premium reward fare

G

The fare code used when you used your miles to pay, or upgrade to, an Upper Class ticket.

Upper class reward fare

 

What would I do?

Always book the cheapest available fare code that allows upgrades, so that you have the flexibility of upgrading at a later date if you wish to.

Booked direct vs travel agent

Booking the flight directly with Virgin Atlantic, means it can be altered by you at any time, either via their website or on the phone.

If you book via a travel agent – either on online travel agent such as Kayak, Expedia or in person at a physical store such as Flight Centre – you will not be able to make changes to the ticket* and the travel agent will need to do this for you and they may charge extra fees for doing so.

*Some things can still be done to the ticket without the travel agent, such as booking seats online through Virgin’s website. You can also still upgrade your ticket on the day of travel at the airport, for cash or miles – subject to availability and conditions.

Pro tip – You can always upgrade non-upgradable fare codes when Virgin are offering fixed price cash upgrades at the airport during check in. These upgrades only affect a single leg of the journey and are not always available.

Cash vs miles upgrades

Virgin Atlantic will always allow you to upgrade a cash fare, to a higher fare by paying the difference between the two. But as they sell more tickets for the flight, this cost goes up. Trying to move from an inflexible, non-refundable ticket to a flexible ticket or doing a date change is usually extremely expensive. So upgrading from say Premium to Upper in advance, with cash is usually broken down as follows:

  1. The difference in cash from your fare code to the next lowest available fare in Upper class.
  2. With miles, if you’ve booked directly with Virgin and you have an upgradable fare code, you can call the booking line at any time and they can upgrade the ticket to the higher cabin. You can do any of the following actions as long as the fare is upgradeable and a seat in the higher cabin is available:
    • Upgrade one single leg of the journey by paying the correct miles and difference in taxes between your booked cabin and the cabin you are upgrading to.
    • Upgrade both the outbound and inbound legs of the journey by paying the correct miles and difference in taxes between your booked cabin and the cabin you are upgrading to.
    • Call the booking line and ask them to hold the reward seats for up to 72 hours while you transfer miles from your credit card account.

In advance vs at the airport

Tickets can be upgraded in advance over the phone either with cash or miles.

Benefits of upgrading in advance:

  • Guarantee of securing the reward seat.
  • Access to the benefits of the higher cabin, further in advance.

Disadvantages of upgrading in advance:

  • You can sometimes obtain a better deal at the Airport when paying cash for upgrades.
  • Mileage seats are often unavailable in advance on popular routes.

Benefits of upgrading at the airport:

  • You can do cash or mileage upgrades at the airport, on the day of travel even if the ticket is booked via a travel agent.
  • If Virgin are offering fixed price upgrades on the day of travel, they are often cheaper than upgrading in Advance.

Disadvantages of upgrading at the airport:

  • There is no guarantee of mileage upgrades being available.
  • There is no guarantee of cash upgrades being available.
  • You won’t have access to any pre-flight benefits of the higher cabin, until you are actually at the airport.

What would I do?

If you can, always upgrade in advance to have the peace of mind that you have the upgrade guaranteed.

Availability

This is the biggest challenge people face and it generally takes the most legwork to work out. Everything else I have discussed in this article is easy to remember with experience, but availability is different on every flight and every route; therefore there is no fixed answer to this.

Reward seats (mileage seats) are notoriously difficult to find. There’s two key ways to find availability:

  • Use the Virgin website to search for “pay with miles” on your preferred route & date.
  • Ring the Virgin booking line and ask if there are any reward seats available in the cabin you wish to upgrade into on your specified flight.
  • Ask at the airport, prior to check in.
  • Ask at the Virgin Clubhouse prior to boarding.
  • Ask at the gate prior to boarding.

Conclusion

If you’ve booked very far in advance, it’s likely that you have a non-upgradable ticket, as the cheap, restricted fares are the ones that get sold first.

Key lessons:

  • If you plan on upgrading, take this into account when you book.
  • Find out your fare code either by asking your travel agent or looking in your booking confirmation.
  • As soon as there is an upgrade available, if it is reasonably priced, take it – it may be gone a few minutes later!
  • Upgrading with miles is almost always better value than cash upgrades and has the benefit of still earning the miles & tier points for the underlying fare although you often have to chase the miles & points because sometimes they do not credit automatically.

Back to the blog, for more articles.

Maintaining a mileage balance

July 1, 2019 | Miles | No Comments

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow

What do I mean by maintaining a mileage balance… well, put simply, it’s just keeping a small stash of miles that you can use for spending at short notice. My miles balance mainly supports on the day airport upgrades. This partly goes against the earn & burn rule but can be useful if you are a very regular flier.

Earn miles without flying

The first thing you can do is earn as many miles as you can, which get automatically credited to your frequent flier account, without actually flying. Credit card spend, Train tickets, online shopping and a multitude of other activity can essentially earn ‘passive’ miles that help contribute to maintaining a balance of miles to spend when it suits you.

Make sure you log your miles

You might think this sounds silly… but I know so many people who do not check when their miles credit after transactions such as taking a flight. If you don’t check these miles have credited, you’re missing out on potential value and further depleting your stash if you are spending them as well.

Claim lost miles 

Remember that most Airlines let you claim miles retroactively, so if you forgot to claim miles for a recent flight, it might not be too late! This may have happened because you forgot to put your frequent flier number on your booking, or the airlines system didn’t automatically credit. Either way, no matter who is to blame, make sure you claim what you are entitled to.

Track net mileage loss

What is net mileage loss?

Well, let’s use the following example:

You fly from London Heathrow to New York JFK and earn 11,062 miles for the roundtrip when all the different tier & cabin bonuses are calculated. Let’s say you upgrade from Premium to Business on one of the legs, so you spend 23,700 miles.

Your net mileage loss takes into account what you earned on the trip and is calculated as 11,062 – 23,700. So, a total loss of 12,638 miles.

Buy miles or boosters

To help in maintaining a mileage balance, you buy purchase miles from the airline, usually capped at a fixed amount per year or, a more popular option is to buy a miles booster. A miles booster allows you to purchase a fixed amount of miles (usually the base flown miles, or double the base flown miles) for a fairly attractive fee.

Using our previous example, if we purchased a booster for double the base flown miles, we would earn an additional 13,828 miles, thus entirely eliminating the loss and actually putting the trip into a slight positive mileage gain even including the upgrade.

When airlines run a miles booster bonus promotion, where you get an additional bonus on the miles booster, these tools become even more attractive.

TIP: You can often retroactively buy miles boosters for flights you’ve already taken for a fixed amount of time after the flight.

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What is the Saturday night rule?

June 12, 2019 | Tips | No Comments

I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve been booking a business trip with colleagues, or a colleague was booking one for themselves and they complained about how high the ticket price was. Every time, I ask – “Are you including a Saturday night stay?” – which is always met with a perplexed look. I proceed to tell them that having a Saturday night stay in your book will almost always change the ticket price, usually making it lower, much to their shock. It’s known as the Saturday night rule. 

What is it?

The Saturday Night Rule is a way that Airlines use to determine whether you are travelling for Business, or leisure. If it’s for Business, they will often charge more. Why? Because they can. They know Business travellers have less flexibility in their travel arrangements and will often pay more to stay with a particular Airline alliance for their Frequent Flier benefits, or because in some cases their company policy dictates which Airline they must fly because they have a direct relationship with them.

A real example of the Saturday night rule

I want to go to New York for a week. A popular destination for both business & leisure, in this example, offered by Virgin Atlantic.

Image 1 shows departure from London on Saturday and returning the following Friday. It includes an overnight stay on the Saturday (the first night of the trip).

This image shows a sample booking with a Saturday night stay included, costing £444.22.
A booking with a Saturday night stay included.

Image 2 shows departure from London on Sunday and returning the following Friday. It does not include an overnight stay on the preceding Saturday.

This image shows a sample booking without a Saturday night stay included, costing £1533.22.
A booking without a Saturday night stay included.

Notice the huge difference in price between the two options. Having a Saturday night stay only costs £444.22 where as without it costs a whopping £1089 more, £1533.22 in total. Crazy!

Conclusion

Lot’s of factors affect airfares, too many to even begin to discuss. But my default rule for researching trips is always to include a Saturday night somewhere in the trip. It almost always has positive effect.

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British Airways reward flights can be booked from midnight (1am BST) , 355 days before departure.

It’s an unwritten rule, that BA release at least 2 Business Class seats on every flight. Because of this predictability, it’s often hard to catch those two seats as there’s almost always someone else waiting to get them as well. After this time, further seats can open up in other cabins. The best time to check is 00:30 GMT.

This image shows the British Airways First Class cabin.
British Airways First Class.

Reward seats can be booked anytime up to the day of departure and until check in closes. If you are still looking for reward seats on the day of travel, remember to ask at check in and again at the lounge.

If you are trying to find availability for a popular route such as Australia or Mauritius, you should call a at midnight UK time (1am during British Summer Time).  You will need to call a non-UK BA office as the UK one will be closed. You should call on the day that the outbound opens and book a one-way ticket. Then at 355 days before the inbound, do the same again. Obviously if you book the outbound, then there is no guarantee you will get the inbound. However, Avios flights can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior to departure, for a £35 fee.

Tips:

  • If you need more than one seat, but the amount you need are not available, book as many as you can and keep watching for more. Waiting for them all to appear is extremely risky because there’s no guarantee of more appearing and someone else could take the existing seats at any time.
  • If you need multiple seats in a cabin, and there’s none or limited numbers available, book the next cabin down because you can always upgrade again later by simply paying the difference in miles & taxes.
  • Remember that you can still book reward seats on the day of travel, at the airport, subject to availability.
  • You can hold reward seats for up to 72 hours by either calling BA or through the website. This is useful if you want to transfer points from a credit card, or buy miles for the transaction. There’s usually a small charge associated with this.
  • Be flexible!
  • Be persistent!

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Unlike British Airways, Virgin Atlantic do not have a set pattern of releasing reward seats. The seats can appear at any time from when the flight goes online at 330 days before the day of travel, and the day of travel itself.

It’s widely rumoured that Virgin do not add the reward seats automatically, but rather via a manual back office process. That means there also is no set times in the day where the seats can appear

If you’re looking for Virgin Atlantic reward seats, you should check the website on a regular basis and book the seats as soon as you see them.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Tips:

  • If you need more than one seat, but the amount you need are not available, book as many as you can and keep watching for more. Waiting for them all to appear is extremely risky because there’s no guarantee of more appearing and someone else could take the existing seats at anytime.
  • If you need multiple seats in a cabin, and there’s none or limited numbers available, book the next cabin down because you can always upgrade again later by simply paying the difference in miles & taxes.
  • Remember that you can still book reward seats on the day of travel, at the airport, subject to availability.
  • You can hold reward seats for up to 72 hours by calling Virgin. This is useful if you want to transfer points from a credit card, or buy miles for the transaction.
  • Be flexible!
  • Be persistent!

Back to the blog, for more articles.