In February, I looked at why redeeming miles for economy flights makes less sense than ever before

Redeeming miles for long-haul British Airways or Virgin Atlantic economy flights has always been somewhat tricky to justify. With airlines reinventing traditional economy tickets and hand-baggage only fares dragging headline pricing down, it’s increasingly harder to make a case for it.

That’s not to say it never makes sense. I needed some flights to New York this week and being the week of July 4th, prices were predictably crazy. Tickets started at £1,300 and went up from there. In scenarios like this one, redeeming miles for economy flights, even with the high taxes, is still a great saving.

While I was looking at flight options, I noticed the significant difference between the taxes currently being charged by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic for economy tickets. 

Here’s an example of a return trip to New York using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles:

Virgin cheap NYC miles redemption

And here’s the cost of using British Airways Avios:

BA NYC economy redemption

As you can see from the above screenshots, British Airways are charging 26,000 Avios + £375 for an off-peak return ticket. Virgin Atlantic charge 20,000 Flying Club miles + £271 for the same trip.

It’s not just New York either

Here’s a booking with Virgin miles to San Fransisco:

Virgin SFO cheaper economy taxes

Or the same route using Avios:

BA SFO redemption example

So you’re looking at 32,500 Avios + £375 on British Airways versus 30,000 Virgin miles + £301. 

Need a one-way flight? Same pattern

It’s the same story with one-way redemptions too. Virgin from New York will charge just $89:

Virgin NYC cheaper economy taxes

Whereas British Airways want £160:

BA NYC one way economy redemption


Virgin undercutting BA is nothing new, although this isn’t just the ~£30 differences you might see on the price of a Club World v Upper Class redemption. Or the minor differences in the number of miles required to various destinations.

This is more substantial than that. A family of four redeeming miles for a trip to New York would save £400+ by booking with Virgin Flying Club miles rather than Avios. That’s some decent extra cash to spend on your holiday.

Obviously, the seat, food and drink onboard and other factors all play a big part in choosing who to fly with, but this particular BA v Virgin price gap is well worth being aware of.

Those with experience of both British Airways World Traveller and Virgin Atlantic Economy – would you pay an extra £75-£100 to fly with BA?

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