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 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, and it may be cheaper to just book premium with cash.
Often, I think you should.
That’s because upgrades from premium economy to Upper Class make the greatest difference and also bring the best value, if you know how to use your miles strategically to land them. With premium economy fares lower than ever, sometimes seen in the high 400’s, like the current Virgin Atlantic sale, 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, it’s available for upgrade. 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.
Side note: miles boost is a great way to earn lots of extra miles.
The amount of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles you’ll need to upgrade will depend on two things: the season and the route. Each part 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.
Virgin Atlantic Off Peak Dates Are:
- 6 January 2020 – 2 April 2020
- 22 April 2020 – 19 June 2020
- 7 September 2020 – 11 December 2020
- 6 January 2021 – 31 March 2021
Hopefully you’re clever enough to figure out that if your dates don’t fall in this range, they’re “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 (Delhi, Mumbai): 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 (Cape Town, Johannesburg): 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. 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 you’ll need to avoid “K” fares, which are the lowest premium economy fares. You can buy the next price up to upgrade, which is often as little as $25-$75 in difference round trip.
If you book a “K” fare online, you can ask the Virgin Atlantic agent to “up sell” you to the Higher “H” or “S” fares needed. Just make sure you do so within 24 hours of booking, during the cooling off period so there’s no added fees to do so.
The same person should be able to pull the miles from your account and get you upgraded into the happiness of Upper Class. Expect to pay a premium of about £125/$150 in addition to the miles. And don’t forget, since you paid cash for the tickets to start with, you’ll be able to earn miles when you fly, even in some cases as much as you spend on your upgrade to Upper Class! That’s a win win.
Not a bad strategy, eh?