I just reviewed Virgin Atlantic’s new A350-1000 Upper Class, which I flew from London to New York recently. The flight was fantastic, and while I had booked a discounted business class ticket, I wanted to talk a bit about the best options for redeeming miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.
Which Planes Have Virgin Atlantic’s New Upper Class?
As it stands, only Virgin Atlantic’s A350-1000s have their new Upper Class seats. The airline has a total of 12 of these planes on order, with four already in their fleet, and a further eight expected to join the fleet soon.
Unfortunately there are no immediate plans to install these new seats on other Virgin Atlantic aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic A350-1000
Which Routes Feature The Virgin Atlantic A350?
New York is Virgin Atlantic’s biggest foreign market, and up until now their focus has been exclusively on flying the A350-1000s there.
The airline has been ramping up the frequency with which they operate the A350 to New York. Currently they fly the plane up to 3x daily between London and New York, and as of December 9 they’ll fly the plane up to 4x daily between London and New York.
The frequencies do vary a bit, so you’ll want to check the exact schedule. Just look for the A350-1000 when booking, which is sometimes denoted as the “A351.”
Virgin Atlantic has also stated that the next planned destination for the A350 is Los Angeles, around the first quarter of 2020. However, as of now no specific LAX flight has been scheduled with the new A350-1000.
Virgin Atlantic’s A350-1000 Upper Class
How To Redeem Virgin Atlantic Miles For A350 Upper Class
The great news is that unlike some other airlines that introduce new business class products, Virgin Atlantic isn’t blocking award seats on their new A350. Quite to the contrary, I’m finding really good availability in Upper Class.
Generally speaking the best program for booking Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class is going to be Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program. The good news is that the mileage requirements are low. The bad news is that the carrier imposed surcharges are high.
Virgin Atlantic Redemption Costs
For a one-way Upper Class ticket between London and New York, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club charges:
- 47,500 miles during standard season
- 57,500 miles during peak season
Virgin Atlantic Standard & Peak Dates
For context, standard dates include the following:
- September 9, 2019 – December 12, 2019
- January 6, 2020 – April 2, 2020
- April 22, 2020 – June 19, 2020
- September 7, 2020 – December 11, 2020
Meanwhile peak dates include the following:
- December 13, 2019 – January 5, 2020
- April 3, 2020 – April 21, 2020
- June 20, 2020 – September 6, 2020
- December 12, 2020 – December 31, 2020
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Carrier Surcharges
Virgin Atlantic has hefty carrier imposed surcharges, so while the mileage requirement is reasonable, the fees are significant.
A one-way Upper Class ticket from New York to London would cost you $624.20 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.
Meanwhile a one-way Upper Class ticket from London to New York would cost you £440.67 (~$567) in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges (that even includes the pricey UK APD). As you can see, surcharges are significantly lower when departing the UK than when departing the US.
How To Search Availability
Virgin Atlantic has a really good search functionality on their website, so I recommend just searching availability on there. They have a flexible calendar functionality, so you can search availability for weeks at a time.
When you select your flights, just make sure you select a flight operated by the A350-1000.
What About Upgrading To Upper Class?
Another option is to upgrade to Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. The upgrade availability is the same as award availability, so if there’s an award seat you can also upgrade to it instead, if you prefer.
A roundtrip upgrade between New York and London will cost the following number of miles:
- From Premium Economy to Upper Class will cost 47,400 miles in standard season
- From Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Upper Class will cost 71,200 in standard season
- From Premium Economy to Upper Class will cost 57,400 miles in peak season
- From Economy Classic or Economy Delight to Upper Class will cost 86,200 in peak season
This isn’t necessarily a bad deal, especially if you’re going for status, though note that you’ll still be subjected to the difference in carrier imposed surcharges between cabins.
Note that you can’t upgrade Economy Light fares, or Premium Economy “K” fares.
To give an example, there are ~$1,437 roundtrip Premium Economy fares that are eligible (the cheaper ones book into “K”).
You could then upgrade to Upper Class for 47,400 miles, since these are off-peak dates. However, you’d also have to pay $750 in cash, which is the difference between carrier imposed surcharges for the cabins (the Premium Economy ticket has $450 in surcharges, while the Upper Class ticket has $1,200 in surcharges).
Unless you’re going for status, personally I think just redeeming miles outright is the better value.
Afternoon tea in Upper Class
What Other Miles Can You Redeem On Virgin Atlantic?
While I do think Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is the all around best program for booking these tickets, what other miles could you redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?
You can redeem Delta SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. The bad news is that it will cost you a minimum of 86,000 SkyMiles one-way between New York and London. The good news is that if you’re originating in the US there are no carrier imposed surcharges.
Meanwhile if you’re originating in London (or anywhere in Europe) you would be subjected to carrier imposed surcharges.
So redeeming SkyMiles can make a lot of sense if originating in the US, but I wouldn’t redeem SkyMiles if the award originates in Europe.
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
You can redeem Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles for travel on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class. A one-way redemption between New York and London would cost you 62,500 Flying Club miles, and you would pay surcharges.
So I wouldn’t say that’s a great deal unless you just have a lot of Hawaiian miles.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
KrisFlyer charges 50,000 miles one-way in Upper Class between London and New York. They do add carrier imposed surcharges, so generally my preference would still be to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles, since they’re easier to come by, and for most of the year redemption rates will be lower.
Potential Future Redemption Options
While not yet possible, it’s expected that Virgin Atlantic will form a frequent flyer partnership with Air France-KLM Flying Blue thanks to a new transatlantic joint venture. So while the value may not be amazing, there should be another opportunity on the horizon.
Best Ways To Earn Virgin Atlantic Miles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are so easy to come by, which is one of the reasons I recommend booking through them.
On top of that, we see transfer bonuses from Amex and Citi to Virgin Atlantic every once in a while, which makes these miles even easier to come by.
Lastly, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® is a great card for earning Virgin Atlantic miles. The card offers a welcome bonus of up to 80K miles, and benefits that can make it worth holding onto. There are so many reasons to get this card.
Virgin Atlantic’s A350-1000 Upper Class
I really enjoyed Virgin Atlantic’s new A350 Upper Class. If you want to redeem miles for it, the good news is that award availability is readily available. Hopefully the above is helpful for anyone considering redeeming miles for this product.