After my last post ("How I booked a £3000+ flight for £1427") I got a lot of people asking me about upgrades and miles on Virgin Atlantic so I thought I'd post a little How To on using miles for upgrades on Virgin Atlantic.
The first thing to know is that only certain types of tickets can be upgraded. It's not as simple as Economy, Premium Economy and Upper. Each cabin has multiple fares and each of those fares have their own uses and restrictions. Currently on Virgin Atlantic there are 13 economy class fares. Yes, 13.
If you've already booked your flight....
If you've booked your flight already, we need to see if the ticket you have is upgradeable with miles. (If you haven't booked yet, skip to this part.) The general rule is if you got a super cheap fare, it ain't gonna be upgradeable. But the first step is figuring out what fare class you're booked in. The easiest way is to look at the e-ticket that Virgin Atlantic emails you right after you book. In that email, you can find your fare class:
Ok so how can you tell if your fare is upgradeable? The folks over at V-Flyer have a really handy page that details all the Virgin Atlantic fare codes but for the sake of ease, the following fare codes are upgradeable with miles: Y, B, R, L, & M. So that means the following fare codes are NOT upgradeable with miles: U, E, Q, V, X, N, O, & T.
So you've found your booking class and it's upgradeable. Sweet! Now what? Well now we have to check if there are mileage seats available for you to upgrade into. In other words, are there seats in Premium Economy or Upper Class that have been released or allocated for upgrades. Fortunately, you can check this pretty easily on Virgin Atlantic's website. Just search for a flight as you normally would BUT specify the class you want to upgrade TO, and make sure you select "Spend your miles" in the final section:
When you click "find my flight" you'll be prompted to login to your Flying Club account so make sure you do that. On the next page one of three things will happen:
- you'll get a message saying there is no availability anywhere near your requested date. If you get this message, don't despair. Keep checking back right up until the day before you're due to leave as they often release seats closer to departure. - you'll get a calendar of alternative dates because the specific date you requested is not available for upgrades. Poke around and see what you can find. - you'll get all the info you need to book a flight with miles, which means there is availability to upgrade. Score! N.B. Don't continue the process from here! We're not booking a flight, just checking the availability.
So if you land on the magical third option you need to act fast. Call Virgin Atlantic's reservation number (UK 0844 209 7777 / US +1 800 862 8621) armed with your confirmation code. Tell the friendly reservation agent that you want to upgrade and that you've already checked for availability. They'll be able to take you through the process of upgrading. N.B. You will need to pay the difference in taxes between your original fare and your new plush and fancy fare. But don't worry, it's never a huge amount and absolutely worth it.
If you haven't booked your flight yet...
If you haven't yet booked your flight you're in a good position because you can search for upgradeable fares before you book. Virgin Atlantic quietly rolled out a feature on their site that allows you to search by specific fare bucket which is EXTREMELY useful. If you go to the Companion Flight page you'll see a booking widget towards the end of the page:
Using this widget, you can search for specific fare classes and they've already done the heavy lifting by only including fares that are eligible for upgrade. So go ahead and search for the flights you want, starting with M class and working your way up until you find a seat. Remember, as you go up from M all the way to Y, it will get more and more expensive.
Once you find a flight you're happy with in fare class that's upgradeable, WAIT! Go back and check that there are seats for you to upgrade into using the method I describe earlier in the article. If there are seats available then get on the phone to Virgin quickly and seal that upgrade!
This is the process I've gone through to secure a ton of mileage upgrades. Got questions? Let me know either via twitter (@cubedweller) or in the comments below.