Like Flying Club? Better take the coach!

Love Flying Club? Take the coach!

We've mentioned in the past that Nectar often runs promotions for fuel purchased either at Sainsbury's petrol stations or BP and these promotions would make driving more attractive than taking the train if you were really interested in maximising points.

If you collect Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles you would think your only option to earn miles on UK domestic travel would be to book on Virgin Trains East or West Coast as Virgin Atlantic don't operate domestic flights (they did for a few years but it didn't last long).

Embarrassingly for Virgin Trains you can earn more points on Virgin Flying Club by travelling with a non-Virgin operator. This operator is coach company National Express!

After some recent cutbacks Virgin Trains West Coast only offer 1 mile per pound, Virgin Trains East Coast still offers 2 miles per pound and National Express offers the most at 3 miles per pound!

£20 spent on train travel would earn you 60 miles whereas on train travel it'd earn either 20 or 40 miles depending which operator you used.

Is this a good deal?

Not really, this is just to show how poor the reward of 2 miles per pound that VTEC currently offer is, the fact VTWC only offer 1 mile per pound is completely shameful.

We've spoke about the fact VTEC needs a loyalty scheme that attracts new customers and makes existing ones feel valued. The current offerings do neither. 

It's also important to remember that if you want to take advantage of Flying Club you need to be earning miles from other sources such as flying or the Virgin Atlantic credit card. It is unlikely that you'd earn enough miles to be useful through train/coach travel alone.

The Virgin Atlantic spend miles page mentions that "Our standard reward flights start from as little as 20,000 miles for an Economy return flight.", this excludes taxes, fees and airport charges. 20,000 miles is enough to get you to the East Coast USA (New York, Boston) but the additional fees mean the flight is anything but free. For a sample booking made from Heathrow to New York JFK the lowest fees found were £210.67.

On longhaul flights the best use of airline miles is to redeem in business class. It this level the difference between the fees charged on a reward flight and the fare charged if you booked on points is significant. It would take a long time to earn the miles required for business class from train/coach travel alone. The cheapest business class return redemption on Virgin Atlantic is 75,000 and while the East Coast US is in the cheapest redemption category for economy it's 95,000 miles.

Therefore to redeem the cheapest economy return redemption on Virgin Atlantic you'd need to spend either:

  • £20,000 on Virgin Trains West Coast
  • £10,000 on Virgin Trains East Coast
  • £6,667 on National Express

To redeem the cheapest business class return redemption on Virgin Atlantic you'd need to spend either:

  • £75,000 on Virgin Trains West Coast
  • £37,500 on Virgin Trains East Coast
  • £25,000 on National Express

or a combination of these, assuming you weren't earning miles from other sources.

If you look at our points calculator, spending £10,000 on train travel would have earned you 25 first class rewards tickets valid anywhere on the East Coast route and 3 lounge passes. There's no way Flying Club can match these benefits!

Earning miles from other sources is beyond the scope of this site so visit Head for Points if you want to learn more.

I use National Express, should I collect miles?

Unless you're very close to a mileage target that you're aiming for and these miles would help you achieve it then there's better ways to reward yourself than a small number of miles. It's always worth checking out cashback sites such as TopCashback to see if they're offering anything. At the time of writing they were offering 3.15% cashback on most coach trips and 5.25% on airport or London trips. This is generally considered more than miles are worth.

It's not the first time National Express has been more rewarding!

Although National Express weren't remembered fondly during the brief period that they ran the East Coast franchise it's still worth pointing out that the National Express East Coast 'escape' loyalty scheme was still more generous than what we get from Virgin Trains East Coast now.

[Comparison between NXEC escape and VTEC]