What happens if you book a Club Suite or Virgin Suite but get downgraded?

Aug 20, 2021

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Back in 2019, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways announced major upgrades to their business class products.

Related: A tale of two A350s: A weekend across the ocean on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic started flying their new Upper Class Suite on the A350, and British Airways introduced its new Club Suite. While these new products are outstanding, it takes some effort to determine which product you’ll be flying on a given route. Having found a route and flight number that is supposed to have the new product, there is only one risk left: an equipment change.

What are your rights if you don’t get to fly the newest product? Let’s find out.

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British Airways

Club Suites on British Airways. Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

The new Club Suite seats are currently offered on all flights on an Airbus A350, some Boeing 787 Dreamliners and certain Boeing 777 aircraft. Based on the route and seat map, you could be fairly certain at the time of booking if you will find yourself in a suite on your flight.

In case your plane is swapped with one with the old Club World seats, British Airways does not offer free rebooking or a refund. This means you are bound to regular ticket conditions if you want to change your flight. If you booked with cash, your best bet is to check if your flight is changeable online. Doing so via phone or at the airport will incur a change fee, whereas changing online is free of charge.

To add to this, change fees will be waived if you booked after 3 March, 2020, for travel before 30 April, 2022, due to the pandemic.

In case of an equipment change, you could use this to your advantage. It is advised that you check for any fare differences before making the change since the fare could have increased since booking.

Related: The best seats on the refurbished British Airways 777 with Club Suite

If you booked your ticket with Avios, you have more flexibility. You can cancel or rebook your flight up to 24 hours before the departure of the first outbound leg. Remember to check if there is award availability on your new flight before cancelling your old one.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin’s Upper Class Suite product. Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

Upper Class suites are offered by Virgin Atlantic on all A350 aircraft.

If you booked your flight with cash and you are rebooked on an aircraft with the old Upper Class product, Virgin does not offer a free change or a refund.

However, if you find an alternative flight with new seats, changing your flight might make sense. Virgin usually charges pretty hefty change fees but due to the pandemic, every ticket is now allowed up to two date changes and a name change. This exception is valid for all travel booked on or after 3 March, 2021, and for travel up to and including 30 April, 2022.

Related: Lofty heights: A review of Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite on the A350 from London to New York

Alternatively, if you booked with points, you can usually cancel and rebook. Keep in mind the £30 change fee Virgin Atlantic charges per ticket. If you decide to go with this option, first check if there is award availability on another flight boasting the new product. If so, cancel or change your old flight online and you are good to go.

Bottom line

Since both carriers apply a ‘business class is business class’ approach to this issue, there is always a small risk that an equipment swap will land you in an older seat. And the airlines do not offer free rebooking or a refund in case this happens.

To ensure having a dream experience on your future business-class flight, your best bet is to book with points or miles as this will provide the most flexibility. Alternatively, take a good look at change and rebooking policies. They might still offer some extra leniency due to the pandemic, helping you out in this particular situation.

Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

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