Flight Review: Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy JFK-LHR on an A330

On our most recent trip to London, Sharon and I decided that we would save some miles and book tickets in Virgin Atlantic’s Premium (Economy) cabin for the flights. When using Delta SkyMiles, each segment in Premium costs 55,000 miles while a segment in Upper Class costs 120,000 miles. We were able to find flights from New York JFK to London Heathrow on an A330. A round trip on this flight would cost anywhere from $1,600 to $4,000. We’d never flown with Virgin in their Premium cabin before, so what did we think of their product?

The first noticeable difference is that when you’re flying in Premium, you don’t get lounge access like you do when you’re flying in Upper Class. While that’s not a huge deal, it did hurt a little bit inside knowing that the Virgin Clubhouse was just down the hall but I was sitting for my flight with this view:

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To say the area of JFK’s Terminal 4 where Virgin Atlantic departs from is bland is a bit of an understatement. (Insert any generic airport picture here, but no, this is actually JFK).

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Have We Outgrown Business Class?

The first time you get to sit in business class on a long haul flight is one of the “WOW” moments of the miles and points world. You never forget the first time you get on the plane and see the big seat that you’ve always had to walk past (or never even got to see because the special people board through their own door on the plane). Our first international business class flight was back in 2004. We used 90,000 US Airways miles and $42 in taxes to fly from Orlando to Chicago (on TED) and then onto Osaka, Japan in United business class.

After that, Sharon stopped making fun of the “points and miles” thing and realized that having your own seat that reclines back into a bed on a 12+ hour flight is not a bad thing.

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Here’s An Easy Way To Save $150 Per Person On A Trip To London

There’s a whole bunch of information you need to know when booking travel using points and miles. Some things you know by heart because you use the information all the time, like which airlines fly from your home airport to your favorite travel destination and what are the best points to book those flights. There’s a bunch more information that you’ll read and bookmark because you think you’ll need it later. There’s one more category of information that you’ll come across, the things that you remember you read about, but only AFTER you find out about them again by accident. For me, this trick, or way to use an airline’s rule to your advantage, just saved $300 on our upcoming trip to London.

I was doing searches, trying to find award space between the U.S. and London. To save time, I look at individual flight segments, as we’re willing to fly one airline to a location and a different one home. And frankly, with award flights, this might be the only way to make a trip. Anyway, I quickly realized that our choices were limited. We weren’t going to fly on United and they have no other partners who fly to London without connecting in Europe. You can book flights on British Airways with Avios or with American miles but they both add the fees British Airways charges to award tickets so it would cost several hundred dollars for each ticket on top of the miles required. So I had one choice left, Delta.

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How To Understand Airline Seat Class Names

Have you ever felt like this when booking airfare? “I’d like to book a seat in Basic Premium Extra Plus Comfort Class that includes exit row seat assignments but without an extra carry on bag.”

Knowing what class of airline seat you were buying didn’t used to be hard. There were only two or maybe three classes to choose from. First Class. Business Class and Coach. Yep, that’s Coach. Not Economy. Not Main Cabin. Not Core. Just plain old Coach. And do you know what? Everyone was fine with that. No one was complaining that the names were inappropriate. You knew what class you were in and everyone was happy.

Flash forward to today and there are numerous names differentiating the seat choices offered by each airline. None of the names are the same and names that happen to be similar can still mean very different seat types. American Airlines leads the pack with eight different types of categories. United follows closely behind with seven and Delta has six. Southwest Airlines is the easiest to understand, as they only have one class of seat which they don’t even bother to give a name 🙂

Here’s my attempt to make sense of all of these names, from top to bottom.

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