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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some amazing sweet spots where you can get incredible value when redeeming your miles on partner airlines rather than by flying Virgin Atlantic itself. But which airlines have the best premium products, and how can you book them?
The below choices focus on Virgin’s airline partners with the best long-haul business class products that operate to and from the UK. Here’s how we rank them.
1. Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines is world-renowned for its incredible service, products and home airport at Singapore Changi (SIN). So, it should come as no surprise that the carrier makes the top of this list. Singapore Airlines operates four daily flights from London Heathrow (LHR) as a mix of both Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft. All have fully-flat, direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration, though you’ll be sleeping on a slight diagonal, which some passengers don’t hugely like. I’ve flown this product numerous times and have no issues sleeping like this.
The airline flies a mix of its newest business class product (on the newest A380s) and the previous generation (although still excellent) product on the older A380s and 777s, as well as the A350s Singapore flies to Manchester (MAN) and on to Houston (IAH). All feature Champagne, gourmet meals, warm and welcoming service and consistency you might not find on other airlines.
Unfortunately Flying Club prohibit redemptions on the aircraft Singapore Airlines operate to the UK (A380, B777 and A350), though you can still redeem miles on other aircraft types especially on the short intra-Asia flights. You can also earn Flying Club miles on Singapore Airlines flights.
- 18 Hours in Nonstop Style: Singapore Business Class on the World’s Longest Flight
Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) only operates one flight a day from the UK — a direct London (LHR) to Tokyo Haneda (HND) Boeing 777-300ER service. That said, it has a great business class. The airline is known for its punctuality, beautifully presented and interesting meals (especially if you like Japanese food) and very professional, if not reserved, service.
The business class cabin features fully-flat beds with direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration, although the product is an older style that doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as some of its competitors.
Redeeming Flying Club miles for ANA business class to Japan is arguably their very best use — it’s only 80,000 miles return, per person.
Delta operates a number of different aircraft and business class products (all called ‘Delta One’) to the UK, but unfortunately, none are the flagship Delta One Suite with sliding doors. When Delta does start offering this service to the UK, the carrier will likely move higher up this list.
But until then, Delta’s business class products and experience is very ‘middle of the range’, so the carrier is placed at the middle of this list.
Delta operates plenty of flights from the UK to the USA, given its very close cooperation with partner Virgin Atlantic. Right now, Delta operates:
- London (LHR): to New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis (MSP), with seasonal flights to Salt Lake City (SLC) and Portland (PDX)
- Edinburgh (EDI): to New York (JFK) and seasonal flights to Boston (BOS)
- Glasgow (GLA): Seasonal flights to New York (JFK)
With so many routes and aircraft type, there are a few different products you can expect on UK flights. All should be fully-flat seating in Delta One business class, and most flights have direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration (except those narrow-body services to Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are 2-2). Some London aircraft have staggered seating layout (like ANA), while others have reverse herringbone like you will find on many Qatar and American Airlines business class flights.
Service on Delta flights is unlikely to be at the level of leading Asian or Middle Eastern airlines, though you can still expect multi-course dining, Champagne and bedding.
- Better on the Ground: A Review of Delta One on the A330 From London to New York
- Lagging Behind: A Review of Delta’s 767-300ER in Business From JFK to LAX
4. South African Airways
SAA operates a daily service from London (LHR) to Johannesburg (JNB). Previously, the airline did not have a great reputation in business class because of its very outdated hard product. The carrier has since upgraded its London flight to an Airbus A330 featuring a brand new business class product with the same seat installed by the likes of SAS and Qantas. This seat is a 1-2-1 configuration with a fully-flat bed, direct aisle access, storage and privacy.
You can expect friendly, if not especially polished, service and homely food.
- A Look at South African Airways’ New A330-300 Business-Class Seat
Flight Review: South African Airways Business Class (A340-300) From Dakar to Washington, D.C. (featuring the older style seat)
5. Air New Zealand
Given how far away New Zealand is, you might not think of this airline when flying from London. It doesn’t fly direct to Auckland (AKL) from the UK, but rather via Los Angeles (LAX) daily from London (Heathrow) using a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. You can book just the flight to LA (what is called a ‘Fifth Freedom Flight’) or the entire journey on to Auckland.
The business class seats will look very familiar if you regularly fly Virgin Atlantic — they are the same herringbone design that have the advantages of being fully-flat and having direct aisle access, but offer almost no privacy or storage and are many years behind the competition.
Air New Zealand has gone for a white seat and cabin design, which is much brighter then the brown theme on Virgin Atlantic.
Service can be relaxed but very friendly and genuine as per the Kiwi way of life.
6. Air China
No mainland Chinese airline has a great reputation in business class, and Air China is no exception. While there will be fully-flat beds on its triple daily services from London (LHR) to Beijing (PEK) on its Boeing 777 aircraft and a 3x weekly service from London (LHR) to Chengdu (CTU) on an Airbus A330, don’t expect food, drinks, service or entertainment at the levels Singapore Airlines consistently provides.
Most of the aircraft Air China uses on these London services also do not feature direct aisle access, as the seats are in a more dense 2-2-2 configuration unlike the 1-2-1 of most other airlines in this list.
- Something’s Missing: Air China (787-9) in Business From Singapore to Beijing
- Upper-Deck Delight: Air China (747-8) in Business Class From Beijing to New York
How to Book
You should be able to find Delta-operated flights available to book with Flying Club miles online (in the same way you would search and book Virgin Atlantic flights). For the other partners on the list, you will need to call Flying Club to enquire about availability, and to book.
You can find redemption tables for each airline partner here.
Featured image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy
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