Virgin Atlantic Exclusive: Guaranteed award seats in all classes and Gold members can book any seat for 2x points
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Some loyalty programmes have come under increased scrutiny recently for reducing the amount of rewards seats made available to members, including the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. There are some positive moves, however.
For example, with the new British Airways Companion Vouchers, extra award availability has now opened up when using the vouchers and there are certain discounted business class cash fares available.
We can now exclusively reveal that Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club has added two significant new benefits.
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1. A guaranteed minimum number of award seats on all flights
The first new benefit is that a minimum of 12 award seats will be initially available on every Virgin Atlantic-operated flight as soon as the flight is put on sale. These minimum twelve seats will be available as:
- Two seats in Upper Class
- Two seats in Premium
- Eight seats in Economy
There are no blackout dates for this minimum seat guarantee, meaning those Flying Club members booking ahead will have more options for school holidays and Christmas in 2023.
This does not mean there will always be 12 seats available at all times for every flight, only when the flights are loaded 331 days in advance. Once the 12 seats are redeemed by Flying Club members, there may be extra seats added, or there may not. For peak periods anyone looking to redeem Virgin Points should book well in advance.
All flights departing from 29 July 2022 onwards will have this minimum guarantee added unless 12 seats have already been redeemed before 29 June 2022, or the flight has sold out.
This means if you have your eye on a particular Virgin Atlantic flight or route and have struggled to find availability you should check back from midday on 29 June as extra award seats may be loaded then.
2. Gold members can book any seat with double points
The second new benefit allows Gold members to book a “Gold Reward Seat”. This allows Gold members to pay for a reward seat in any cabin, even when there is no A, P, or G fares available. You’ll need to pay double the usual points and book more than 60 days in advance.
Members should always check online first to see if reward seats on their desired dates are available. If they are not, just like the upgrade reward & companion reward earned through the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, these double points bookings can only be made over the phone or via web chat.
This Gold benefit is set to launch on 29 June 2022. Here is what we know so far:
Who can book?
Gold Reward seats can be booked by Gold Flying Club members only who must be Gold at the time of booking and they must travel on the booking, however other Tiers and non-members can be included in the booking.
What classes of travel can you book?
All revenue booking classes in Economy, Premium, & Upper Class are eligible, excluding Economy Delight & Light. Economy tickets can be booked in Economy Classic only.
When can you book?
This is the key restriction to this benefit. The tickets are bookable up to 60 days before departure. You’ll have to plan ahead for these ones! Gold Rewards issued at the launch of this new benefit will be valid during the member’s current membership year and bookings must be made in this period.
Gold Rewards triggered on renewal of Gold are valid for 12 months. Flights must be booked in this period but you can travel after, as long as you are Gold at the time of booking
How much will a Gold Reward cost?
You will pay double the amount of points and the usual taxes, fees and carrier charges apply.
On certain routes, at certain times, this could save huge amounts of money. For example, regular reward tickets are hard to come by in the next few months on certain Virgin routes such as Tel Aviv. A one-way economy ticket from Tel Aviv to Heathrow could set you back as much as £700 in September around the Jewish holidays, but utilising a Gold Reward ticket will cost just 18,000 Virgin Points plus £58 in taxes and fees.
You will find sweet spots on other busy routes where you may need to travel on specific dates and where there are no available reward seats.
Using a Gold Reward, a return flight to New York will cost 40,000 Virgin Points plus £280 in taxes and fees in economy, 70,000 Virgin Points plus £531 in taxes and fees in Premium and 190,000 Virgin Points plus £991 in taxes and fees in Upper Class. Peak dates will cost more points.
Will you earn points on these bookings?
During the pandemic, Virgin changed its stance and now credits tier points on reward flights. The standard tier points will be awarded but not Virgin Points.
Can you change or cancel Gold Rewards?
You can cancel your ticket, but you cannot change the date, cabin, or route on your ticket. You’ll have to cancel and rebook to change which will be a problem if you need to make last-minute changes.
Cancellations will incur a fee of £30 for flights originating in the UK, US$50 for flights originating in the US or local currency equivalent of US$50 for flights originating in any other region.
Can you combine Gold Rewards with other vouchers?
You won’t be able to combine a Gold Reward with Virgin’s upgrade or companion vouchers.
- You can book a maximum of 8 sectors per membership year
- Gold redemption rewards cannot be gifted
- You cannot use Gold Rewards for Virgin Holidays or flight plus hotel package bookings
The addition of Gold Rewards will provide a true additional benefit to Gold members and if you are close to achieving Virgin Gold it may spur you to make the final jump to this elite level. The benefit will be particularly valuable on shorter, busy routes where award availability is hard to come by and cash prices are sky-high.
Additional reporting by Ben Smithson.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy
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