You can now redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Air France and KLM flights

Feb 13, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program just received a great boost – from February 13, 2020, you can now redeem Virgin miles on flights operated by Air France and KLM, following the further implementation of their Joint Venture agreement.

There’s quite a bit to ‘unpack’ here, so to speak, so here’s what you need to know as a Flying Club member.

Elite status benefits

If you hold Flying Club Silver status, you will now receive similar benefits flying Air France/KLM operated flights as you would flying Virgin Atlantic or Delta operated flights, including:

  • Priority check-in;
  • Priority baggage drop-off; and
  • Priority boarding.

Flying Club Gold status members will receive the same benefits as Silver status members above, as well as:

  • Priority Airport Screening (where available);
  • Priority customer service desks in airports (where available);
  • Priority baggage handling; and
  • Additional baggage allowance.

Unlike Delta operated flights, Flying Club Gold status members will not receive the following:

  • ‘Disruption prioritisation’;
  • Standard seat selection;  and
  • ‘Ancillary seating products’

Related: Just as good the second time: A review of Delta One Suites on the 777, Los Angeles to Paris

Earning Flying Club miles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can already earn Flying Club miles on the following flights:

  • Virgin Atlantic marketed flights operated by Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Air France/KLM (i.e. with a VS flight number);
  • Delta marketed flights, operated by Virgin Atlantic or Delta (i.e with a DL flight number); and
  • Air France/KLM marketed flights, operated by Air France/KLM.

From 13 February 2020, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can also earn miles on the following flights:

  • Delta marketed flights, operated by Air France/KLM; and
  • Air France/KLM marketed flights, operated by Virgin Atlantic and/or Delta (i.e. with a VS or AF/KL flight number).

In short, what this means is that you can earn Flying Club miles for any flight marketed by Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Air France/KLM provided it is operated by any of these carriers too. Note that while Air France, KLM and Delta are all Skyteam alliance members, you cannot earn or redeem Flying Club miles on other Skyteam airlines like Korean Air or Kenya Airways.

Related: What Are Codeshare Flights and How Do They Work?

Image by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy

Short-haul Redemptions on Air France/KLM

Flying Club have introduced a concept similar to British Airways popular and valuable Reward Flight Saver option for short-haul redemptions across Europe, at almost the same rates in miles.

Taxes and fees are also applicable and initial searches show taxes on the KLM route from London to Amsterdam at £53.91 in economy and £66.91 in business class return. On Air France from London to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) taxes are showing slightly more expensive at £57.51 in economy and £85.31 in business class return. Taxes were at similar rates when looking at departures from regional airports like Newcastle (NCL) and Leeds-Bradford (LBA).

These taxes are not quite as good as the BA Reward Flight Saver rates, but they are also not significantly more expensive, unlike the taxes and fees charges by some other European loyalty programmes for short-haul flights.

Distance flown (miles) Economy (Off Peak) Economy (Peak) Business class

(Off Peak)

Business class

(Peak)

0 – 600 miles 4,000 4,500 8,000 9,000
601 – 1,249 miles 7,500 8,500 25,000 26,000
1,250 – 1,749 miles 9,000 11,000 30,000 32,000

Off peak pricing applies: 6th Jan 2020 – 2nd Apr 2020, 2nd Apr 2020 – 19th Jun 2020, 7th Sep – 11th Dec 2020, 6th Jan 2021 – 31st Mar 2021.

Peak pricing applies: 3rd Apr 2020 – 21st Apr 2020, 20th Jun 2020 – 6th Sep 2020, 12th Dec 2020 – 5th Jan 2021.

There’s good and bad news here:

  • Redemptions start from just 4,000 miles which is a fantastic use of Flying Club miles.
  • While both Air France and KLM operate from numerous UK airports, all of these fly directly to their hubs in Paris (CDG) France and Amsterdam (AMS), so if you are travelling further afield, you will have to change planes at these hubs.
  • Short-haul redemptions are charged per flight, just as British Airways do for their Reward Flight Savers. So if you are travelling from the UK via Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS) to say, Rome (FCO) you would be charged one amount of miles from the UK to Paris or Amsterdam, and then another amount from Paris or Amsterdam on to Rome.

So, these rates are fantastic if you are just flying to Paris or Amsterdam, or only flying from Paris or Amsterdam, but not so great if you need a connection from the U.K. past these hubs in Europe, as many travellers from the U.K. would need to.

Long-haul redemptions on Air France/KLM

This is where it gets more interesting and potentially lucrative. Rather than using distance based award rates like for short-haul flights, the long-haul redemptions are a zone based redemption chart, meaning you can fly anywhere within one zone to anywhere in another zone for a fixed amount of Flying Club miles, regardless of the actual distance flown.

Remember fees, taxes and charges apply and these have not yet been provided to TPG.

There are ten zones, including:

  • Zone 1 – Western and Central Europe (including all flights from the U.K.)
  • Zone 2 – Eastern Europe and North Africa
  • Zone 3 –  Middle East and Russia
  • Zone 4 – Central Africa
  • Zone 5 – Southern Africa, Indian Ocean and Indian Subcontinent
  • Zone 6 – East Coast North America the Caribbean
  • Zone 7 – West and Central North America, and Central America
  • Zone 8 – South America
  • Zone 9 – Far East Asia and Eastern Russia
  • Zone 10 – Oceania

KLM does not have a first class product and unfortunately but not unexpectedly Flying Club redemptions are not allowed in Air France’s spectacular La Premiere first class cabin, which TPG recently voted as the world’s best first class. Premium economy redemptions are not possible on KLM flights as they don’t offer this cabin.

Long-haul redemptions using Flying Club miles on Air France or KLM are priced in three different award charts, for economy class, premium economy and business class.

The charts provided refer to off-peak pricing. For peak pricing, you need to add 10,000 miles, which is much less of a hit on the more expensive routes, but would more than double the cost of redemptions on some shorter routes.

Off peak pricing applies: 6th Jan 2020 – 2nd Apr 2020, 2nd Apr 2020 – 19th Jun 2020, 7th Sep – 11th Dec 2020, 6th Jan 2021 – 31st Mar 2021.

Peak pricing applies: 3rd Apr 2020 – 21st Apr 2020, 20th Jun 2020 – 6th Sep 2020, 12th Dec 2020 – 5th Jan 2021.

Related: Great seat, so-so service: A review of KLM’s business class on the 787-9 from Amsterdam to Toronto

Here are the charts for each:

Air France/KLM long-haul economy redemption using Flying Club miles
Air France/KLM long-haul economy redemptions using Flying Club miles

 

Air France/KLM long-haul premium economy redemption using Flying Club miles
Air France/KLM long-haul premium economy redemptions using Flying Club miles

 

Air France/KLM long-haul business class redemptions using Flying Club miles
Air France/KLM long-haul business class redemptions using Flying Club miles

 

Now a positive condition of these long-haul award charts are that unlike British Airways Executive Club, redemptions are not priced per flight, rather they are priced from your origin to your destination. For example, if you are flying Manchester (MAN) to Singapore (SIN) via Paris (CDG), this would be priced as a single Zone 1 to Zone 9 rate, even though you are taking two flights.

If you redeemed British Airways Avios on say, Qatar Airways for the same origin and destination, you would be charged two separate rates, one from Manchester to Doha (DOH) and the other from Doha to Singapore. This is a really great rule of the new Flying Club redemption options.

Related: C’est (Almost) Chic: A Review of Air France’s 777-300ER in Business From Paris to New York

(Photo courtesy of Air France)
(Photo courtesy of Air France)

So how does this compare to existing rates?

You may be wondering if you should look at redemptions on Air France/KLM or fly Virgin Atlantic themselves, where they fly the same route.

Let’s compare some of the most popular destinations where both Virgin Atlantic and Air France/KLM fly. As Virgin only fly from London I’ll only compare like for like:

Route

Flying Club miles required for Virgin Atlantic flights, one-way per person (off-peak)

Flying Club miles required for Air France/KLM operated flights, one-way,  per person

London to New York 10,000 (economy) / 17,500 (premium economy) / 47,500 (Upper/business) 12,000 (economy) / 24,000 (premium economy) / 48,500 (business class)
London to San Francisco 15,000 / 27,500 / 67,500 15,000 / 39,000 / 77,500
London to Hong Kong 12,500 / 22,500 / 57,500 21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000
London to Johannesburg 12,500 / 22,500 / 57,500 15,000 / 30,000 / 61,000
London to Tel Aviv 9,000 / 16,000 / 37,500 9,000 / 18,600 / 30,000
London to Mumbai 10,000 / 17,500 / 37,500 15,000 / 30,000 / 61,000

So looking at the above comparisons, there are mostly not huge differences in the rates if you redeem Flying Club miles on Virgin Atlantic flights, or flights operated by Air France/KLM, though overall it slightly cheaper on Virgin Atlantic, especially for premium cabins on longer routes (and especially to Asia)

Remember that if you are flying from or to anywhere in the U.K. other than London, if you are choosing an Air France/KLM redemption you can fly from various regional airports in the U.K. whereas a Virgin Atlantic operated redemption must be made to or from London (LHR and LGW).

Related: Should I fly KLM or Air France in economy?

How does this compare to British Airways Executive Club?

You may know the rates for destinations Virgin Atlantic fly to themselves, but this new partnership opens up a range of destinations that Virgin Atlantic or their existing partners don’t fly to, that you can now redeem miles for.

Let’s have a look at a few options that British Airways also fly to to see how the new rates compare:

Route

Flying Club miles required for Air France/KLM operated flights, one-way, per person

Avios required for British Airways operated flights, one-way, per person, off-peak

London to Toronto 12,000 (economy) / 24,000 (premium economy) / 48,500 (business) 13,000 (WT/economy) / 26,000 (WTP/premium economy) / 50,000 (Club World/business)
London to Mexico City 15,000 / 39,000 / 77,500 16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500
London to Tokyo 21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000 19,250 / 39,000 / 75,000
London to Kuala Lumpur 21,000 / 42,000 / 112,000 22,750 / 45,500 / 87,500
London to Nairobi 12,000 / 24,000 / 48,500 16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500
London to Seychelles 15,000 / 30,000 / 61,500 16,250 / 32,500 / 62,500

Again, not a massive difference in price between the two programs, though for long-haul destinations like Asia, British Airways Avios definitely comes out on top.

Remember, Air France and KLM long-haul flights from the U.K. (using Virgin Flying Club miles), will require a change of planes in Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS) which may lessen the appeal compared to a direct flight on British Airways (using Avios), even though it may require less points.  The upside is Air France/KLM together have an enormous network, flying to dozens of destinations Virgin Atlantic don’t, and even destinations British Airways don’t either.

What about Delta?

You may already know Virgin Atlantic works closely with Delta allowing Flying Club members to earn and burn Flying Club miles on Delta flights. There will be no change to this for Flying Club members with the new Air France/KLM options.

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

This is a great boost to the Flying Club program because it opens up so many new destinations that Virgin Atlantic and their existing partners don’t fly to. I’m pleased to see that they have implemented a low short-haul redemption system similar to British Airways Reward Flight Saver though frustratingly unless you are headed to Paris or Amsterdam, you will have to pay two amounts. For long-haul, the amounts are about as expected although for Asian destinations they are steep, especially in premium cabins.

This is particularly exciting for the regions of the UK. Air France and KLM have fantastic regional connections to their Paris and Amsterdam hubs. From there, you can reach most of the world, and with Flying Club miles being relatively easy to collect in the U.K. your options have grown significantly.

There will be some unique sweet spots for redemptions on Air France and KLM long-haul that may convince you to shift from Flying Blue (the loyalty program of Air France/KLM) or even the British Airways Avios program. Stay tuned to TPG U.K. as we delve deeply into the new features of the Flying Club program!

Featured image by Delta Airlines

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.