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Virgin Atlantic Boarding Process and Groups – Everything You Need To Know

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Andrew Kunesh
Andrew Kunesh's image

Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

69 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 28U.S. States Visited: 22

Andrew’s a lifelong traveler who puts in over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew’s worked at Th...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

35 Published Articles 3232 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Virgin Atlantic may be the underdog of U.K. long-haul airlines, but it has long strived to give its passengers a hip cabin and delightful service across all classes. This made the airline a favorite for many U.S.- and U.K.-based travelers, letting it quickly expand to destinations across the U.K., North America, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.

If you have an upcoming flight to the U.K. (namely, London or Manchester), there’s a decent chance that you’ll find yourself on a Virgin Atlantic plane. No matter what class of service you choose to book, one thing rings true: you’re going to have to physically board the plane before the Virgin Atlantic experience begins.

However, Virgin Atlantic has a somewhat untraditional boarding process that makes it different from British Airways, United Airlines, and others that fly from the U.S. to the U.K.

In this article, we’ll show you how the Virgin Atlantic boarding process works, saving you some major confusion at the airport.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Virgin Atlantic Boarding Zones

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350
Image Credit: H. Kamran via Unsplash

As you’d expect, Virgin Atlantic breaks up its boarding zones class-by-class. However, there are a couple of things that make this different than other airlines — namely that economy boarding is split up by the type of economy fare you choose to purchase. So with that in mind, make sure you know what type of economy fare you’ve purchased before you go to board.

However, like most airlines, those with status can board ahead of their purchased class of service. Here’s how the boarding process works:

First to Board

Second to Board

  • Premium (Virgin Atlantic’s version of premium economy) class passengers

Third to Board

  • Economy Delight passengers

Fourth to Board

  • Economy Classic passengers
  • Economy Light passengers

Note that Economy Classic and Economy Lite passengers are called by row, starting from the back to front.

Priority Boarding

Currently, there is no way to buy priority boarding outright. Instead, you’ll have to either earn frequent flyer status on Virgin Atlantic or Delta or purchase an Upper Class, Premium, or Economy Delight ticket.

How To Build Up Your Virgin Points Balance

Flying on Virgin Atlantic — whether in economy, Premium, or Upper Class — doesn’t need to be an expensive feat. In fact, you can fly on the airline for a relatively low amount of Virgin Points.

You can earn Virgin Points in a variety of ways, the first being by flying on Virgin Atlantic or one of its airline partners. The airline partners with a number of different airlines like Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia, and others. You can view the full list of airline partners on Virgin Atlantic’s website.

Hot Tip: You can use your Virgin Points to redeem for flights on Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, ANA, and other Virgin Atlantic partner airlines. Check out our Virgin Atlantic redemption guide for more info.

However, the most popular earning method for most Flying Club members is transferring in Virgin Points from a number of credit card and hotel transfer partners, including American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Miles (via Virgin Red), Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott Bonvoy. Each of these transfer at varying rates, and offer bonus deals from time to time.

Further, you can also earn Virgin Points by signing up for a Virgin Atlantic co-branded credit card from Bank of America. The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® has a solid welcome offer and earns bonus Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic purchases.

These are our recommended cards for earning Virgin Points:

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Card

As mentioned earlier, Virgin Atlantic has one co-branded credit card with Bank of America. The Virgin Atlantic World Elite card earns 3x points per dollar spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x points per dollar spent everywhere else.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Upgraded Points LLC
Having the Chase Sapphire Preferred in your wallet helps you earn Ultimate Rewards points that can be easily transferred to Virgin Points. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio. You can use these recommended credit cards to earn Ultimate Rewards points quickly through sign-up bonuses and everyday spend:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth over $900 when redeemed through Chase Travel℠.
75,000 points
$1,500
$95
21.49%-28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros
  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Travel portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
Cons
  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s over $900 when you redeem through Chase TravelSM.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase TravelSM, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase TravelSM. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 21.49%-28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth $1,125 when redeemed through Chase Travel℠.
75,000 points
$1,500
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros
  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
Cons
  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase TravelSM.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase TravelSM. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority PassTM Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $0
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

If you’re a business owner, see our list of the best Chase business credit cards.

Amex Membership Rewards Credit Cards

Virgin Atlantic is an American Express transfer partner at a 1:1 transfer ratio. See our post on how to earn lots of Amex points where credit cards are a great tool for that.

Citi ThankYou Rewards Credit Cards

Like Amex and Chase, Citi ThankYou Points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 transfer ratio. See our article on the best Citi credit cards to top up your ThankYou Point balance.

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-point bonus awarded for every 20,000 Virgin Points (60,000 Bonvoy points) transferred.

You can earn Marriott Bonvoy points by staying at Marriott hotels or by signing up for a Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit card from Chase or American Express.

Final Thoughts

The U.K. is one of the most popular international destinations for American tourists, and Virgin Atlantic is one of the most comfortable ways to cross the pond.

Before you head to the airport though, it’s important to know what to expect so that you’re not caught off guard. While Virgin Atlantic has a largely standard boarding process, its decision to split up different types of economy passengers may throw off some first-time Virgin Atlantic flyers.

We really hope this will help get your next Virgin Atlantic trip to the U.K. off to an enjoyable and stress-free start — safe travels!

The information regarding the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Virgin Atlantic boarding groups are there?

At this time there are 4 boarding groups that are prioritized by class of service and airline status. Note that the economy class boarding is split up by passengers in Economy Delight, Economy Classic, and Economy Light.

Who boards the plane first on Virgin Atlantic?

The first boarding group consists of Upper Class passengers, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines status holders, and persons with disabilities and small children.

What points transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club?

Most major points currencies transfer to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club loyalty program. These include:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Bilt Rewards
  • Capital One Miles (via Virgin Red)
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy

What time does boarding start on Virgin Atlantic?

According to Virgin Atlantic, “You must be at the boarding gate at least thirty (30) minutes before your scheduled departure time, unless you are advised otherwise.”

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About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.

He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.

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