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Old Feb 17, 19, 9:15 am
  #2  
greenarmy
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 56
Ted,
I will try to keep this as clear as possible.
Firstly, there is an option D - book 2 reward seats in PE. perhaps I should assume as you did not mention this option it means you will have over 45K miles at booking time but also know that you will have less than 90k and hence it is unfeasible anyway?

On booking and any pitfalls.
1. To use a companion reward in PE the cash ticket cannot be in K class (the cheapest) and it must be a "published fare". Booking through a travel agent (including Virgin Holidays) commonly but not always involves them booking a fare that is not a published one. This is especially true if you book a flight+hotel, or other Flight + xxx deal. You can check if it is a published fare by using the ITA Matrix or checking the price the Virgin website wants to sell at. Also if you book the cash ticket not on Virgin's website some phone agents will claim that they cannot add a companion reward to it by definition however this is categorically false and you will have to HUACA or engage the twitter team to find you a more competent agent. The most risk-free route is ringing up Virgin and doing the booking all at once, which as you would have to ring them to add the companion anyway does not seem a chore.
2. To upgrade Economy Classic tickets similar advice applies, except that any published booking class will do - even the cheapest as long as you are booked in classic.
3. If you booking two reward seats, or one cash and one reward then Virgin's website can do both with ease.

And now for the complicated part. Which should you do.
Well, there is a short answer in that: it depends.

I have done a analysis exercise for this question getting into PE by the various methods at different ticket price combinations but for the Barbados route (as I have booked for myself for Dec 2019) in great detail on my personal blog at https://groundwingandsky.home.blog/2019/02/04/virgin-companion-fares-part-3-the-premium-cabin/ so I can speak with some experience on this; although the precise values for the mileage costs and Taxes+ Fees, pricing structure to Joburg will not be same there is some general advice I can give.

The main result from that exercise is that usually two award tickets are the usually cheapest option, because they are a better option unless paid PE is really cheap, and if paid PE is really cheap then it is very unlikely that either the price difference to paid economy classic is large enough to make the upgrade route worth it, or you are in K class and you can't use a companion reward. (Also if paid K class is less than your valuation of 57K miles + the surcharges and taxes then you shouldn't be using miles at all).

However if it remains the case that 2 award tickets will be unfeasible for you, I would highlight the following principles.

(1) Always remember that the paid fares earn miles back - and consequently the real miles cost of each method is more than simply the outlay for the type of mileage use you are doing (unless you are certainly you will never redeem Virgin miles again)
(2) The K - class issue means that if you are flying on dates that have K class availability, then to do a companion reward you will have to buy up a fare class. If this buy up is more expensive than the value you place on 22,600 miles then it would be better to not do that and use a normal reward for the 2nd seat. A short look at the price differences between K and H class fares for JNB suggests this leans in favour of staying with K if it is available.
(3) The Reward/Companion tickets are very flexible if you may need to cancel, but the bought cash tickets are substantially less so which may be of important to you (or not at all, it depends) and would weaken the Economy Classic + upgrade.
(4) Whilst Upper Class availability is rare on this route especially in the SA summer, if you book Eco Classic and upgrade, it should then be possible (IF, a very big IF availability is there) to further upgrade to UC which may or may not have value to you.

I hope this helps,
GA.
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