Is there a word travelers love more than upgrade? Don’t think so.
Upgrade means all smiles, more comfort and perhaps something cool to toast the moment. When it comes to securing these coveted travel trophies, I tend to do better than most, and I’d say that’s hardly an accident. I have a strategy, I deploy it and I find a way. If it works for me, it should work for you, so here’s the low down…
International upgrades from the UK, from economy to premium economy rarely make sense using miles because of UK government imposed surcharges on flights to or from the UK. Basically, you’d pay a lot of miles and a lot of money to upgrade. It may, in fact just be cheaper to book premium with cash in the first place.
Often, I think you should.
That’s because upgrades from premium economy to Upper Class make the greatest difference in amenity and also bring the best value, if you know how to use your miles (now Virgin Points) strategically to land them.
With premium economy fares lower than ever, sometimes seen in the high 400’s, like during Virgin Atlantic sales, it’s incredible value to pay premium and fly business class, just from cashing in some miles.
My strategy is relatively simple.
Find flights with availability using miles in Upper Class, and then book those flights in premium economy, and call to instantly upgrade to Upper Class. Yep, if there is a seat available with miles in Upper, it’s available for an upgrade from Premium to Upper.
In case you ever need to help specify to an agent, it’s called “G Class” availability.
I’ve used this strategy recently to upgrade flights to Los Angeles, New York and more, and with just a day or two of date flexibility, I’ve generally been able to get it done at the time of booking. Not everyone has flex, and fortunately sometimes you don’t even need it.
How Many Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles You Need To Upgrade
The amount of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles you’ll need to upgrade will depend on two things: first, the season and then, the route. Each region of the world requires a different number of points, and each city will have peak and off peak dates. Obviously, peak will be more expensive in miles than off-peak, but they’re not crazy different.
Virgin Atlantic Peak Dates Are:
- 19 June – 5 September 2021
- 15 – 26 October 2021
- 11 – 31 December 2021
- 1 – 25 April 2022
- 30 May – 5 June 2022
- 18 June – 4 September 2022
Hopefully you’re clever enough to figure out that if your dates don’t fall in this range, they’re “off peak”.
Now that that’s out of the way, that leaves you with how many miles you’ll need for a given upgrade. There’s a chart for that, which shows the round trip upgrade prices required for each city, but I tend to focus on one way upgrades from London, since most flights tend to be longer in that direction.
Here are a few one way Virgin Atlantic Premium to Upper Class upgrade prices for both off peak and peak, like…
- Tel Aviv, Israel: 14,000 miles off peak, 16,500 miles peak.
- India: 18,700 miles off peak, 33,700 miles peak.
- East Coast USA: 23,700 miles off peak, 28,700 miles peak.
- West Coast USA: 33,700 miles off peak, 38,700 miles peak.
- South Africa: 28,700 miles off peak 33,700 miles peak.
With The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles In Place
Congrats, it’s the final countdown. You’ve got your miles in place and it’s time to put all the magic together for an upgrade. If you don’t have all the Virgin Points in place, you can instantly transfer a variety points, like those from credit cards over to Virgin Flying Club, almost instantly.
But let’s get back to the magic moment, when points are in the account and ready to upgrade.
The best place to start is on VirginAtlantic.com, where you can search for a flight in Upper Class using miles, by selecting “advanced search” and pressing “price in Miles” and selecting Upper Class as the chosen cabin.
You’ll then be provided with a calendar of dates where there’s availability to use miles in Upper Class. Ignore the rates shown in both miles and money, because you’re just using this search to show you when you can upgrade at the rates discussed above. Jot down the flight numbers of which flight on your dates have availability, and then…
The choice is yours at this point: call to book over the phone and process it all in one go, or book online and then call. There’s a key benefit to calling, which is that it can all happen in one transaction, quickly.
Virgin recently made sweeping changes to its loyalty program, and even “K” class Premium Economy fares are eligible for upgrade again. Read up on the latest changes, which even allow you to use a voucher earned from a Virgin credit card to upgrade or bring a companion.
The same person should be able to pull the miles from your account and get you upgraded into the happiness of Upper Class right away. Expect to pay a premium of about £125/$150 in addition to the miles for trips originating the UK. Trips originating in the USA may be a bit higher, but may still be worth it.
And don’t forget, Virgin Atlantic also recently changed its elite status earning structure, known as ‘Tier Points’, and you still earn points to work towards perks on flights when you cash in miles. Since these were cash bookings to start, you’ll also earn Virgin Points back. Sometimes, nearly as many as you paid for an upgrade!
Not a bad strategy, eh?