British Airways Executive Club versus Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Which is better for families?

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British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are the top two frequent flyer programmes in the U.K. As most families focus on one programme to collect miles, how are you meant to choose between the two British airlines?

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)
Virgin premium economy. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Earning miles

British Airways or Virgin Atlantic-operated flights

You earn British Airways Avios or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles dependent on the class flown, ticket category and your level of status. Here is the breakdown of what you would earn per child or adult (not infant) ticket in economy without a status bonus.

On Virgin Atlantic:

  • Economy Light (T): 25% of miles flown
  • Economy Classic (O, N, X, Q, E): 50% of miles flown
  • Economy Classic (L, U, M): 100% of miles flown
  • Economy Classic (Y, B, R): 150% of miles flown
  • Economy Delight (V): 150% of miles flown

On British Airways:

  • Lowest (G, O, Q): 25% of miles flown
  • Low (K, L, M, N, S, V1):  50% of miles flown
  • Flexible (Y, B, H): 100% of miles flown

A favourite of Virgin flyers is the Flying Club miles booster. Depending on the current miles booster bonus, you can buy additional miles for a low rate on flights flown on Virgin that can increase your balance.

Winner: Virgin Atlantic. With more tickets earning 50% and the ability to earn up to 150% in economy plus the miles booster, Virgin edges ahead for earning in economy for families.

Partner airlines

With British Airways, you’re opened up to the entirety of the Oneworld network, including American Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and more. You can not only earn and redeem on these other carriers, but you can also benefit from the partner’s lounges. For example, even when flying on a Club Europe Avios reward ticket out of Terminal 3 without any BA status, you have a choice of four lounges (note: head straight to the Cathay Pacific Lounge).

Qantas Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 (photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen)
Qantas Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

The Virgin Flying Club is also well connected even though the airline isn’t part of any major alliance. Because the carrier is 49% owned by Delta Air Lines, it is well connected to the U.S. through Delta’s domestic network. Additionally, the carrier is partners with Air France, Singapore Airlines, SAS, KLM, Air New Zealand, ANA, South African Airways, Virgin Australia, Air China and Hawaiian Airlines. Exact rules with each of the partners varies, but with many, you can either earn or redeem Flying Club miles — or both.

Winner: British Airways‘ secure membership in the Oneworld alliance and its strong partnerships to earn and redeem miles on those carriers — plus some more — makes BA the winner.

Credit Cards

There are two Virgin Atlantic cobranded credit cards available in the UK. Both of which come with sign-up bonuses and good earning rates:

There are two British Airways cobranded credit cards:

The additional benefit with the British Airways cards is earning a Companion Voucher if you hit the minimum spend, though some families find them difficult to redeem. Check our series on how to maximise a Companion Voucher.

(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Best for families who want to earn a Companion Voucher: British Airways

Best for families who want to have their card accepted more places: Virgin Atlantic

Transfer partners

Both Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and BA Executive Club are 1:1 transfer partners of the American Express UK Membership Rewards programme. Amex points you earn can be seamlessly transferred to either programme.

Both Virgin and British Airways are transfer partners of Tesco Clubcard Vouchers. You can cash in £2.50 of your Tesco Club Card Vouchers for 600 British Airways Avios or 625 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

Winner: Tie

Miles based on your commute

For families that have a car, BA has the Shell Driver’s Club where you can get 10 Avios for every 20 litres of Shell Fuel by converting Shell Driver’s Club points. However, if you travel on Virgin Trains, you can earn Virgin Flying Club miles on your trips, providing you purchase your tickets on the website and not through other portals such as Trainline.com.

Best for families who drive: British Airways

Best for families using trains: Virgin (but a draw if using Trainline)

Miles based on where you shop

Connecting your BAEC or Virgin Flying Club number to a company you already use to spend via their shopping portal is a great way for families to easily accrue more points with either carrier.

BA shopping portal

Winner: Tie

Redeeming miles

As a Family

Virgin only allows family pooling if you have Gold status. While children can earn Virgin Flying Club miles, it can be difficult to earn enough to redeem them without the added boost of a credit card.

However, with British Airways, you can create a Household Account and pool miles with your family from as soon as your child starts earning Avios and book tickets for one another. Both mileage programmes state that miles will expire if 36 months pass with no activity, but there are many ways to extend their lifetime.

Winner: British Airways

Based on where you want to fly

At the moment, Virgin only operates long-haul routes out of the U.K. Virgin’s regional operations are slated to change in 2020 with its investment and subsequent rebranding of Flybe to Virgin Connect. In my experience, I’ve found that finding four premium award seats together is easier on Virgin than on British Airways.

However, one of the best uses of British Airways Avios for families are Reward Flight Savers within Europe. I find these particularly helpful to bring friends and relatives into the U.K. during term time.

Winner: British Airways because of the extensive route network beyond just long-haul flights.

Booking partner awards

With British Airways you can book tickets on Oneworld carriers and get some great value when travelling within another region. Domestic American Airlines flights booked with Avios can be a very good money saver. Also check out Cathay Pacific within Asia or Qantas within Australia where the taxes are lower but the cash fares can be high. My family saved £1,000 by booking reward tickets from Hong Kong (HKG) to Denpasar (DPS) on Cathay Pacific by using Avios.

Photo by The Points Guy

There are some sweet spots with redeeming Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on Delta One to America and ANA to Japan. Delta offers a way around the high cash outlays Virgin and British Airways charge on their award tickets. Do note that searching on Virgin is difficult for partner awards other than Delta.

Winner: British Airways for the wide range of Oneworld partners.

Bottom line

There is not a clear winner for all families, as certain factors can make one airline much more valuable than another for your family’s travelling preferences. Now you just have to decide which programme deserves your precious pounds.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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