How To Redeem Miles For Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class

Filed Under: Awards, Virgin Atlantic
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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?

Delta SkyMiles

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.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott Bonvoy.

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

Bottom Line

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.

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Comments
  1. A trick I’ve found to getting more bang for SkyMiles with the VS A350:

    While NY to London is pricing at 86K+, you can fly JFK-LHR-TLV for 85K one way–a whole extra flight in Upper Class (albeit on an A330), a nice layover at the LHR Clubhouse, and 1,000 miles cheaper than just the JFK-LHR flight. A great way to get to Israel on SkyMiles with an extended Virgin Atlantic experience.

  2. @Pete
    I’ve only booked it without–not sure it’ll price with a stopover. Also if you take a stopover in London on the return it’ll trigger the UK APD. Taxes on TLV-LHR-JFK are <$100.

  3. @Bill, I just flew to TLV on Delta, using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, it was 60k each way in business. It was their A330, still a solid product, but not the suites.

  4. I have been looking in early July for an A350 award LHR – NYC and all I find are old A330’s. Wah.

  5. HA also imposes a 14 day advance purchase on VS awards. At least that’s what two HA res agents told me recently.

  6. The problem with Virgin Flying Club awards is they don’t have “anytime” availability. There either is, or there isn’t, availability – so no ‘saver’ or ‘anytime’ – just yes or no availability. Surely this is old fashioned with most other airlines offering ‘anytime’ awards, even if for a hefty number of miles.

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