How to Upgrade Your Next Virgin Atlantic Flight With Miles

Jun 28, 2019

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There are plenty of different ways to use your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles — most notably, for reward flights. However, some of the best value you can get from those miles is by upgrading a flight.

Eligible Flights

You can upgrade your flight that is operated by Virgin Atlantic, subject to availability. You can upgrade either one class only — economy to premium, or premium to Upper Class — or you can upgrade two classes — from economy to Upper Class. Virgin Atlantic does not operate first class.

The cheapest economy light and Virgin holidays V, N and O fare codes cannot be upgraded. So, your economy fare code must be the more expensive economy classic or delight Y, B, R, L, U, M, E, Q or X codes. To understand what fare code your ticket is, read our guide here. Fortunately, almost all premium revenue fares can be upgraded to Upper Class  — these are W, S or H code fares. Unfortunately K fares are ineligible for upgrades.

You will still earn Flying Club miles and Tier Points for the revenue fare class you paid for, but not the higher class for which you are using miles to upgrade.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Finding Availability

Each airline manages its upgrades differently. Some allow upgrades at the time of booking, while others process them at the absolute last minute based on seats they would not be able to sell. Some show availability for upgrades and redemptions together, while others show availability for just redemptions or just upgrades. Virgin Atlantic’s availability is simple — if perhaps frustrating. The seats available for upgrades must also be available for a straight reward redemption.

This makes searching for upgrade availability easy because it’s the same as searching for reward availability. At the same time, you may find that the upgraded seat in a premium cabin you are looking for has already been taken by someone else as a full redemption.

Virgin Atlantic does release some additional redemption/upgrade availability at the last minute, so if there are no upgrades with Flying Club available when you first search, it can be worth checking again in the few days before the flight departs. You can try and upgrade at any time from booking, but you must do it prior to check-in — don’t wait until the airport or boarding gate.

For scenarios like this, ExpertFlyer is an incredibly useful tool. With a subscription, you can set alerts for upgrade or redemption space. If space does open up, ExpertFlyer will send you an email right away so you can log in to book the newly available seat.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Cost

While some upgrade costs are difficult to work out, given Virgin Atlantic’s fairly small route network, it has published a handy chart to make it easy to understand how many miles you’ll need to upgrade.

Very oddly, Virgin lists the prices for round-trip upgrades. It can be difficult enough to find availability to upgrade one-way, so I would have thought the upgrade costs would be listed as one-way, then doubled for round-trips. Instead, it is the other way around — you can upgrade a one-way journey for half the cost listed above. Note the peak and off-peak dates in the image above.

Where your upgraded class has higher taxes and fees, you will have to pay this at the time of upgrading, as well as the additional Flying Club mikes. This is important to note, because for flights in premium classes, the luxury Air Passenger Duty is payable, and this can significantly increase the cost of the redemption.

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. (Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy)

How to Book Your Upgrade

Many airlines allow upgrades online at any time. Flying Club has a frustrating restriction where upgrades can only be booked during office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) by calling 0344 412 2415.

Upgrades must be processed no later than the day before departure.

Featured photo by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy.

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