Reward, Upgrade or Companion

Old Feb 15, 19, 11:13 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 5
Reward, Upgrade or Companion

Would appreciate any advice on which of the above gives the best value and confirmation my thinking is correct.

I intend to fly to Johannesburg in Jan/Feb 2020 with my wife and trying to decide the best strategy for PE seats. I appear to have many options, the main three being :-

A) Purchase a PE seat and use a Reward seat with miles
B) Purchase two Economy Classic seats and Upgrade both with miles
C) Purchase a PE seat and use a Companion seat with miles

I am assuming for A I will need to pay the taxes and charges for a PE seat and 45k miles. For B I will need to pay the difference between taxes and charges for an Economy seat and a PE seat twice and 44.8k miles. For C I will need to pay the taxes and charges for a PE seat and 22.4k miles.

Looking at a random date in January, both A and B cost about £1730 plus 45k miles while C costs about£1730 plus 22.4k miles. However, using a random date in May (a cheaper time of year for SA) A is about £1420 plus 45k miles, B is about £1245 plus 44.8k miles and C is about £1420 and 22.4k miles.

So in January clearly C gives the best value, in May there is no clear winner between B and C.

Presumably there needs to be Award seats available in PE which I gather is generally an unknown quantity. As far as the mechanics of booking one of these options goes which is the recommended option with most chance of success? Is it best to book online or through Customer Services?

Are there any pitfalls with the ticket(s) I buy not being eligible for Reward, Upgrade or Companion?
Ted51 is offline  
Old Feb 17, 19, 9:15 am
Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 56
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 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,
greenarmy is offline  
Old Feb 18, 19, 1:41 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 5
Hi GA,

Thanks for your very comprehensive reply.

I had discounted option D but actually looking at it again I believe I can get to 90k miles by the time I need to book so may well go down that route. The other options I will also look at again after digesting your reply.

Ted51 is offline  
Old Feb 18, 19, 2:35 pm
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: LHR
Programs: Accor PLT,Thai Silver, HH Dia, SPG PLT (LT Gold), TK Gold, M&M S, BA Silver, Hyatt Dia
Posts: 4,389
Hi Ted

You are aware of the various methods to obtain VS miles such credit cards (Virgin is offering 25K at present), Amex Gold a further 20K and Tesco etc.
ExpatSomchai is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread