Which Virgin Atlantic Destination Provides the Best-Value Upper Class Redemption?

Jun 2, 2019

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Virgin Atlantic has a somewhat bespoke route map that it flies to on its own metal, and each destination is available to book with Flying Club miles — availability permitting, of course.

The award chart is grouped into different zones/regions. If you are redeeming Flying Club miles for economy or premium (premium economy) flights, you may be wanting to get off the flight as soon as possible. But if you’re considering Upper Class, Virgin’s business class product, with its fully-flat beds, direct aisle access, multi-course meals with fine wines and Champagne and even an onboard bar, you might not want the flight to end.

So what are the best value Upper Class destinations? There are a number of ways to measure value of a redemption — the cash fare equivalent, availability aircraft type/age of aircraft, seat type. Until Virgin introduces its new Airbus A350 with the new Upper Class Suite product later this year, all Virgin Atlantic aircraft have the same seat in Upper Class.

I’m choosing to use the miles required vs. flight time as a comparison.

First, we look at the award charts:

And then let’s look at the approximate duration, in hours, of flights within each of the above zones.

  • Israel — 5 hours
  • India — 9 hours
  • USA (Northeast) — 7-8 hours
  • Caribbean — 9-10 hours
  • USA (Midwest and South) — 9.5 hours
  • Africa, China and Hong Kong — 7-12 hours
  • USA (West) — 10-11 hours

Then, let’s compare the number of Flying Club miles required for a one-way Virgin Atlantic flight in Upper Class to the duration of the flight. For the best value in a premium cabin, you want the longest flight for the least number of miles.

Using the standard (off-peak) chart, with the miles halved as the chart shows prices for round-trip itineraries:

  • Israel — 5,600 miles per hour
  • India — 4,166 miles per hour
  • USA (Northeast) — 6,785 down to 5,937 miles per hour
  • Caribbean — 6,388 down to 5,750 miles
  • USA (Midwest and South) — 5,000 miles per hour
  • Africa, China and Hong Kong — 8,214 down to 4,791 miles per hour
  • USA (West) — 6,750 down to 6,136 miles per hour.
(Photo by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy)
Virgin Atlantic 747. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

From the above calculations, the standout destination for Upper Class value, points wise, is India (Delhi [DEL] and soon, Mumbai [BOM]). The longest ‘Africa, China and Hong Kong’ destination of Hong Kong (HKG) is also below 5,000 miles per hour.

The highest cost per hour by far is Lagos, Nigeria (LOS), as its a short seven-hour flight but still requires 57,500 miles. After that, both the shortest USA Northeast destinations of Boston and New York and Newark, as well as the shortest USA West destination of Seattle are the worst value per hour.

So overall, of the above routes one-way from London, India provides the best Virgin Atlantic destination.

Now remember departing the UK especially, there are substantial fees, taxes and fuel surcharges applied to each Upper Class booking. These range from around £261 for the shortest route of Tel Aviv (TLV), then in the £300s for Africa, Asia, India and the Caribbean up to £445 one-way to US destinations. Given some US destinations (i.e. East Coast) are fairly short flights, these high fees make the value even worse.

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

There is one route to London that is amazing value in terms of fees and taxes. From Hong Kong to London (the best value Asia destination to start with), one-way fees, taxes and surcharges are only HKD350, which is only £35 — about a tenth of the cost of the same route in the other direction (London to Hong Kong).

This is because historically, Hong Kong has banned fuel surcharges for flights departing Hong Kong. This ban was supposed to end last year, but as of now, Flying Club has not imposed the fuel surcharges.

Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

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