Does Seeking Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Make Sense, Now that Air France / KLM is Aboard?

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Mr. Brightside, our anonymous points and miles expert, is an elite status junkie. Now that Virgin Atlantic has achieved a rescue deal and has joined forces with Air France and KLM, he is sure that there must be some interesting opportunities to earn elite status with Flying Club, but is it worthwhile?

It has taken a couple of years to pass from agreement to reality, but the transatlantic joint venture between Virgin Atlantic, Delta Airlines and Air France / KLM is now in effect. Reciprocal benefits for elite status members are an integral part of that joint venture. As a result, the value of elite status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is now potentially much greater…

Achieving Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Requirements for Elite Status

Flying Club has two levels of elite status – Silver and Gold. Eligibility for elite status is determined by the number of Tier Points earned within the last year. (i.e. a rolling 12-month period) If you are familiar with British Airways Executive Club, then you should be quite familiar with the concept of Tier Points. The rolling 12 months idea might be new to you, however, and it’s actually 13 months for first timers…

On a daily basis, Flying Club looks at your account for flights taken within what it calls an Upgrade Cycle. Your Upgrade Cycle is calculated from the current date of the month, to the 1st day of the same month in the previous year. As an example, if you earned 200 Tier Points on 2 January 2019 and another 200 Tier Points on 28 January 2020, your account will have been upgraded to Silver status.

Once your Upgrade Cycle includes 400 Tier Points, your account is immediately upgraded to Silver status. Starting the next day, your 12-month re-qualification period begins.

HOWEVER, those 400 Tier Points are not lost. They can still count towards the objective of 1,000 Tier Points for Gold status, again within a rolling (almost) 13-month period. This can be quite confusing, as you can easily be attempting to qualify for Gold status on an entirely different schedule to your renewal of Silver.

As a summary, you have:

  • Nearly 13 months to earn 400 Tier Points for Silver or 1,000 Tier Points for Gold and qualify for the first time
  • Exactly 12 months from your qualification date to earn 400 Tier Points to renew Silver or 1,000 Tier Points to renew Gold

How Many Tier Points Will I Earn?

Unlike British Airways Executive Club, which in most cases allocates Tier Points based on distance, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club awards different amounts of Tier Points depending on the partner airline flown. You also need to pay special attention to the fare class booked.

Virgin Atlantic

Air France

KLM

You can, of course, earn Tier Points on other Flying Club partner airlines. I won’t reproduce every chart, but you can investigate yourself by clicking here for the Flying Club airline partners page.

The Bright Side…  I don’t know how long this will last, but it is really EASY to find intra-European flights on Air France or KLM that are longer than 600 miles. If you are willing to book an expensive Business Class fare that connects via Paris or Amsterdam – for example, Madrid to Paris to Vienna – you can earn 800 Tier Points from a £800-1000 fare. Since there is no minimum flight requirement (on Virgin Atlantic), you can go from Red to Gold over the weekend (without flying to Hawaii)…

The Benefits of Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Standard Benefits with Virgin Atlantic

Silver status gets you the following from Virgin Atlantic:

  1. 30% bonus miles on paid flights
  2. Free seat selection in “Economy Light” for the member only
  3. Premium Economy check-in
  4. 2,000 free miles for renewing Silver

Gold status gets you:

  1. 60% bonus miles on paid flights
  2. Access to Virgin’s Clubhouse for the member + one guest
  3. Access to Revivals arrival lounge at London Heathrow
  4. Free seat selection in “Economy Light” for member + any companions on same PNR
  5. Complimentary exit row seats when booking “Economy Classic”
  6. One additional piece of checked luggage
  7. Upper Class check-in
  8. The ability to set up a Household Account to take advantage of the miles earned by family members
  9. 2,000 free miles for your birthday
  10. A complimentary companion ticket for renewing Gold

The Bright Side – the companion tickets are one of my “most hated” elite status perks. In order to use it, you must pay a relatively expensive fare – Z (cheapest Upper Class) and K (cheapest Premium Economy) are excluded – and pay the associated taxes and surcharges for the companion ticket, which only book into available award inventory. You will often find that it is cheaper, and certainly easier, to simply book two paid tickets during a fare sale. During a peak travel period when fares are high, you won’t find the award space that you need to use the companion voucher…

Benefits on Air France / KLM

The Bright Side…  Michele and I share the same instinct. Because the main reason to travel with Virgin Atlantic is their Upper Class, the lounge entry benefit for Gold members is not particularly valuable, especially since Virgin doesn’t offer short-haul flights in which we might be more inclined to book Economy. But Air France and KLM do…

When flying on Air France or KLM, Silver status gets you:

  • Priority check-in and priority boarding

Gold status is much better, entitling you to:

  • Priority check-in
  • Fast track security
  • Priority boarding
  • One additional piece of checked luggage, including on hand baggage only fares
  • Lounge access for you and one guest

The 30-Second Lowdown

There is very little benefit to earning Silver status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Gold status is much better, although it used to require regular travel on Virgin Atlantic to achieve. This has now changed thanks to the partnership with Air France and KLM. Although there aren’t any routes between the UK/Ireland and Paris or Amsterdam that cover more than 600 miles – to earn an impressive 200 Tier Points each way in flexible Business Class – you can still become a Flying Club Gold member with a creatively-booked weekend trip around Europe.

For those readers based outside of the M25, where “London” Airways isn’t really fit for purpose, this new opportunity to enjoy elite status benefits on those KLM flights to Amsterdam (and beyond) is definitely worth exploring further.

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