My spouse and I will be traveling to LHR in May 2004. We’re both FF members with Hawaiian Air who is a partner with Virgin. We have only one roundtrip from LAX to OGG on our record. We are going to buy their Premium Economy ticket from LAX LHR because we want to make sure that we have a better seat than economy. Of course we want to upgrade to First since this will be our first trip to LHR. Does Virgin upgrade often and do we have a better chance if we have the Premium Economy seat compared to a cheaper economy seat?
Thanks for your advice, Steve
Answered by The Penny Pincher
The short answer is yes—you are more likely to be upgraded when purchasing a premium economy ticket. The premium economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic also offers some special benefits, such as: dedicated check-in, a flute of pre-flight bubbly, six inches more legroom, your personal television screen, a variety of complimentary drinks, and a menu with three different meal choices, including a vegetarian selection.
However, there are some other options to explore. First it seems from your note that you have just begun your relationship with Hawaiian Airlines. If this is the case, and you do not have a compelling reason for flying Hawaiian Airlines, you might consider another carrier that offers a broader range of flight options. One consideration is Continental Airlines, who has a partner agreement with both Virgin Atlantic and Hawaiian Airlines. If you are first starting to build a history with an airline, your foremost objective should be to choose an airline that will best meet your geographical needs while providing opportunities for special recognition and upgrades.
Another option is for you to consider the possibility of getting a free companion ticket. With certain American Express Cards you can get a free ticket with the purchase of a premium ticket. Airlines also offer companion tickets on certain routes as well. If you consider this alternative, look at the cost of the one ticket and associated benefits compared to the cost of purchasing two economy tickets and the likelihood of being upgraded.
If you decide to fly with Virgin Atlantic, join their flying club here, book your ticket, and then call Richard Branson at 01293-562345 and explain to the executive assistant that this is your first trip to London and that you are looking forward to your flight and the possibility of more future flights. Also stress that you are paying for a premium ticket and would like to inquire about being upgraded. They will first start off by giving you the standard line about it being based on status or only available to those who purchase a first class fare. However, with a little polite assertiveness you should have some luck.
All the best,