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stuart_f's guide to upgrading VS flights using Flying Club points.

stuart_f's guide to upgrading VS flights using Flying Club points.

Old Dec 16, 15, 5:02 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Oxford
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stuart_f's guide to upgrading VS flights using Flying Club points.

This post has been updated as a result of Virgin's changes to upgrade fare classes on 15 Feb 16. You may still find posts on FlyerTalk that reference booking and upgrading M class flights, the same advice will generally apply but you should now search for X class flights.

Part of the problem with booking fares via Virgin's website is that economy doesn't just come in (lowest) and (flexible) flavours, there's a load of different versions that fall in the middle and Virgin's website doesn't offer the fine control to be able to select the class you need. From most expensive to cheapest, the economy codes are:

Y B R L U M E Q X | N O
The bar between X and N is very important, anything to the left of the line is upgradable using miles, anything to the right is not. What the website is doing is offering you 2 choices, cheapest or flexible. Cheapest means as far to the right as possible, flexible means as far to the left of the line as possible. This isn't helpful at all but once you understand what the website is offering you, you can find the fare you actually want.

Some Flying Club agents will try and explain upgradable fare codes by describing them as flexible. This is correct but not totally helpful. Your ticket needs to be SLIGHTLY flexible (to the left of the line) but it DOES NOT need to be totally flexible. There is significant saving booking X (minimum flexibility) over booking Y (total flexibility).

Note: There's a V fare bucket that sits between Q and X but this is used for Virgin Holidays Economy booking and is excluded from miles upgrades so I've omitted it for clarity

Now, we have already said VS website won't offer you anything except the 2 extremes so we will use the ITA-Matrix website to look up the fare you need. You can then book this and upgrade at the same time on the phone with Flying Club.

For the sake on an example let’s choose to visit Barbados for 2 weeks at the end of August. We might need to be a little flexible on dates to find availability.

Find dates where reward seats are available:

Visit http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en/book-your-travel/book-your-flight.html



Enter your destination, preferred dates and choose “spend your miles”. Do this even if you actually want to buy a ticket and upgrade because the purpose of this step is to find out where the reward tickets are. To upgrade to Premium Economy you will need there to be availability in the P bucket (ivory line under the date) and for Upper Class you need availability in the G bucket (purple line under the date).



Well what were the chances of that?! There’s reward seats in all classes on just the days I picked. (OK so I cheated and picked these so the example works. You might have to be a bit more flexible than this…)

Now that we know there’s reward seats available to upgrade into we now need to work out how much this is going to cost us.

Use ITA Matrix to find ticket costs:

Visit https://matrix.itasoftware.com



To get the extra boxes click on "Advanced routing codes" then setup your screen to look like this:



The using “VS /f bc=x|bc=q|bc=e|bc=m” tells ITA Matrix to look for Virgin Atlantic (Carrier code VS) flights that have X class fares (the cheapest upgradable option) or Q or E or M classes. ITA Matrix will always try to find the lowest cost option within the parameters you set.

Since there were reward seats available from 28-31 Aug lets ask for a calendar of fares so we can see if one day is cheaper than another.



28 Aug isn’t looking to be such a great deal so let’s stick with 31 Aug outbound.



The total comes to £584.92

Find out how many miles we need:

Head to http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en/flying-club/spend-miles/reward-flights.html and scroll down to the section on upgrading using miles. Upgrading our X class to Upper will cost us 25,000 miles each way.

The total cost will therefore be:
£584.92 Return ticket in X
£138.00 Additional taxes due because you are flying in a premium cabin*
---------
£722.92 and 50,000 Flying Club miles

(*You can calculate the additional tax due by looking at the taxes and fees for a Premium booking and subtracting the Economy fare from it.)

Armed with this info, ring up the flying club and ask them the following:
"I want to book a return economy ticket to Barbados in X class and I want to upgrade the return to Upper using my miles on the following dates...."


Is booking an economy fare and upgrading the best use of my miles/money?

It depends.

There a loads of ways of getting into Upper Class:
  • Buy an Upper Class ticket.
  • Redeem miles for an Upper Class reward.
  • Buy a Premium Economy Ticket and upgrade.
  • Buy an Economy Ticket and upgrade.
  • Fly an ex-EU in Business class.

Which of these is “best” depends on how you value your time/miles/cash and only you can decide what’s of value to you. Here's a comparison of the various methods all based on booking the same UC return to Barbados as used above.



But I only want to upgrade one leg? How can I do that?

No problem, simply remove the advanced routing codes from the leg you don’t want to upgrade. This will allow ITA Matrix to look for any fare class, even the cheaper, non-upgradable O and N classes. If O or N classes are available they will save you some money.

Can I book Premium Economy then upgrade to Upper?

Yes.

The PE booking classes are:

W S H | K P
Where W, S and H are upgradable. Simply replace the advanced routing codes in ITA Matrix with “VS /f bc=w|bc=s|bc=h” to find an upgradable PE fare.

All this ITA Matrix stuff looks complicated. Do I have to do it?

No.

You can just call Flying Club and ask them to price it all up for you. The advantage with looking online is that you can try lots of different destinations and dates at your leisure.

I’ve got a Virgin Holidays booking that booked into H class. Can I upgrade this using miles?

No.

Despite your ticket sharing the same code as an upgradable bucket it’s NOT a Virgin Atlantic ticket. It’s a travel agent ticket. It just happens that the travel agent has Virgin in the name. This catches a lot of people out, you might be able to grab an upgrade at the airport when control of the ticket switches back to Virgin Atlantic but until the T-24 hours control of the ticket is with Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic can’t see it or make changes to it.

Last edited by stuart_f; Feb 26, 16 at 4:25 am Reason: V fare (Virgin Holiday Economy) is excluded from upgrades
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Old Jan 10, 16, 12:08 pm
  #2  
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The above post is a cut and paste from this thread - http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/virgi...iles-joke.html

At the suggestion of several people, I have made it a sticky at the top of the forum (with Stuart's permission), as upgrading with points is one of the more frequent subjects that people ask about on this board. To get a fuller picture of the issues, the original thread gives the background to the comprehensive explanation.

In my opinion, this explanation is far clearer and more useful than any part of the VS website, but for those who want to read it, the official explanation of upgrading with points can be found here - http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en...d-flights.html

If there are any further questions or views about upgrading VS flights with points, please use this thread.

Nick
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Old Jan 12, 16, 5:31 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
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I have 2x rtn LON-NYC economy tickets in T bucket. I 'paid' 25k points (+charges) rtn each in a VS sale last year.

From speaking to one phone operator (who may be wrong?), to upgrade to PE, I'd need to pay the difference between what I paid (25k) and the list price (55k) + difference in charges.

Is this correct?

Will an upgrade to PE cost me 30k + charges?
And similarly, to UC 55k + charges?
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Old Jan 12, 16, 6:13 am
  #4  
pol
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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That's correct. What you are actually doing when you upgrade a flight booked with miles is cancelling the original booking and rebooking in the new class. Virgin will hold your premium seats, cancel your economy seats, refund the miles and then take the full miles for a premium redemption, so unfortunately you won't benefit from the miles sales price.
Of course if you have the upgrade vouchers from the Virgin credit card you can use these on your economy redemption and all that would be due are the extra taxes/fees.
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Old Jan 12, 16, 6:55 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
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Originally Posted by pol View Post
That's correct. What you are actually doing when you upgrade a flight booked with miles is cancelling the original booking and rebooking in the new class. Virgin will hold your premium seats, cancel your economy seats, refund the miles and then take the full miles for a premium redemption, so unfortunately you won't benefit from the miles sales price.
Of course if you have the upgrade vouchers from the Virgin credit card you can use these on your economy redemption and all that would be due are the extra taxes/fees.
Thank you for the reply!

I guess I hoped there'd be an upgrade price rather than a wholesale cancellation/rebooking. It'd be a shame to lose the sale price that I've had booked for a while. I guess I'll just drink/nytol my way through the flights!
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Old Jan 20, 16, 6:04 am
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by stuart_f View Post
Part of the problem you have is that economy doesn't just come in (lowest) and (flexible) flavours, there's a load of different versions that fall in the middle and Virgin's website doesn't offer the fine control to be able to select the class you need. From most expensive to cheapest, the codes are:

Quote:
Y B R L U M | E Q V X N O

The bar in the middle is very important, anything to the left of the line is upgradable using miles, anything to the right is not. What the website is doing is offering you 2 choices, cheapest or flexible. Cheapest means as far to the right of the line as possible, flexible means as far to the left of the line as possible.
Could you do the same for the PE fare buckets, please? My company allows me to book PE long haul but I'd like to be able to upgrade using my miles. Thanks.
roberino is online now  
Old Jan 20, 16, 3:35 pm
  #7  
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PE fare codes:

W S | H K P
Where W and S are upgradable, H K and P are not.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 5:34 am
  #8  
 
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The VS site now says that Economy E, Q and X fares are also upgradeable.

I expect Premium Economy H to be upgradeable soon.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 6:18 am
  #9  
pol
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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Originally Posted by pk45cu View Post
The VS site now says that Economy E, Q and X fares are also upgradeable.

I expect Premium Economy H to be upgradeable soon.
If you scroll down and look at the upgrade table it does in fact say h is upgradable. Great news.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 6:36 am
  #10  
 
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This is good to hear. Strange question, but is there anywhere that the conditions of each code can be found? I'm just curious as to what (other than notional price) is different between (for example) an L fare versus an R fare.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 10:16 am
  #11  
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Good spot people!

I've done a quick and dirty edit to the OP to reflect X upgrades. I'll probably find the time to re-do the screenshots and add in PE to Upper upgrades in due course.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 11:05 am
  #12  
 
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Must be in response to BA's drop.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 11:50 pm
  #13  
 
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The web site keeps changing, it showed only W, Y and B corporate fares eligible for upgrades this morning, and is back to showing all fares eligible now.

Last edited by pk45cu; Feb 16, 16 at 2:23 am
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Old Feb 16, 16, 12:39 am
  #14  
 
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Hi, I'm sure I've seen the answer before but sorry can't find it.

If I pay for a return in PE and then upgrade to UC using miles do I still get credited some miles back for the flights I've booked in PE?

Thanks
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Old Feb 16, 16, 1:41 am
  #15  
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Yes you are entitled to the miles and tier points from the underlying revenue fare.

In some cases you may need to call Flying Club to have the miles and tier points credited, occasionally the poor IT gerbil gets confused with tickets that have been upgraded and forgets to post them automatically.
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