So, I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to use a chunk of my Virgin Velocity points to book a First Class Apartment ticket on Etihad’s fabulous A380. This morning I pulled the trigger for June so I thought I’d write a quick guide on how to book Etihad First Class with Virgin Velocity Points.
Last June Etihad announced new costs associated with booking award travel using Virgin Velocity points, US$50 for Economy, US$205 for Business Class (which I reviewed here) and US$300 for First Class per seat per sector. Essentially, it means that it’s going to cost you and your significant other an extra US$1200 to fly First Class to London with 2 seats and 2 sectors of flying.
Interestingly my costs weren’t as high as I’d mentally prepared for!
The best place to search for Award availability on Etihad is within Etihad’s own Etihad Guest portal, so head over there to sign up if you’re not already a member. You can search for Business availability within Virgin but they don’t have a First option so I just do it through Etihad if I’m tossing up between the two.
I wanted to fly the new A380 First Apartment so I needed to find a day with GuestSeat availability, it turned out to be Sunday the 11th of June. As you can see OpenSeat options are prohibitively more costly in points spend (not worth your time).
From the table above I was prepared for around a spend of 150,000 Velocity points by the time I’d booked the ticket, but I’d also assumed the US$300 sector fee would be added to the tax amount of AUD$282.47, which had I been correct would have amounted to a hefty AUD$675.17. Unlike booking with Virgin online, the costs associated with such a redemption are not so clear cut. You need to call Velocity on 13 18 75 to find out the total cost, and to book the flight if that cost is to your liking of course.
My call this morning was a painless process. I shared the flight details with the operator who double checked the seat availability. He confirmed the seat and then told me the cost in points and Australian dollars.
SYD – AUH First Class: 152,000 Velocity Points
Feeling somewhat relieved I agreed to pay the $479.37 on my Velocity Platinum Amex card, he processed the payment on the spot and gave me a Virgin Booking Reference and an Etihad Booking Reference so I could choose my seat, which you need to do by calling for Etihad First Class. Finally, to confirm my booking I got an email from Virgin with my flight information and that’s it – a pretty relaxed process if I do say so myself.
Assuming the bulk of the $479.37 was the US$300 ($392.70) I really only paid $86.67 in taxes which is very reasonable. $479 is pretty steep for a redemption but to put it in perspective Singapore Airlines charge $254 for both Business and First from Sydney to Singapore. That flight is only 8 hours so perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to justify the extra $225 for 6.5 more hours in the air in a newer product. To be fair though that trip is roughly half the spend of points!
And if you can’t justify the fee like I did above, a quick look at the apartment and the full price ticket below will have you laughing like a shark.
I will finish by saying that I don’t think booking Etihad First Class with Virgin Velocity Points is the best value you can get for your points, however, if you want to fly the best First Class product in the world you’ve got to sacrifice a little bit extra for the pleasure.
Stay tuned for my Etihad First Class review!
Enjoy flying Business and First Class? You might enjoy some of my flight reviews: