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Which Is The Best Airline Rewards Program In The UK?

If you are a travel hacking novice (i.e someone who finds every conceivable way to earn airmile and hotel loyalty points) in Britain, you may be wondering whether it is better to focus on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. This post considers which offers the best airline rewards program in the UK. It is the first of a four-part series considering the best airline rewards program for each of:

  1. Route choice
  2. Redemptions
  3. Ease of earning miles and points
  4. Overall winner for the best airline rewards program in the UK

We kick off the series by considering which airline offers the best route choice so you can consider your travel options.

Travel planning with maps, passport
Travel plans

Best airline rewards program for route choice

Here are the route maps showing destinations for both airlines. You can see immediately that there are less routes for Virgin, but does that mean British Airways has the best airline rewards program?

BA route map
BA route map
Virgin Atlantic route map
Virgin Atlantic route map

British Airways offers flights to more destinations both long and short-haul. However, let’s take a look at direct options from each of the regional hubs as this reveals some interesting differences.

Regional destinations

All destinations below are based on direct flights although both airlines offer connections. British Airways flights usually connect in London whilst Virgin offers connections via a number of US cities.

Destinations from Manchester

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Atlanta χ
Barbados χ
Boston χ
Las Vegas χ
New York χ
Orlando χ
San Francisco χ
Billund, Denmark χ
Alicante χ
Cambridge χ
Chambery χ
Dublin χ
Gothenberg, Sweden χ
Florence χ
Ibiza χ
London χ
Malaga χ
Mykonos χ
Nice χ
Palma χ
Salzburg χ

From Manchester, Virgin Atlantic offers the best choice of long-haul routes. Virgin offers six long-haul destinations from Manchester whilst British Airways offers none. British Airways offer instead 14 short-haul routes although not all operate year round.

I love that Virgin allow me to take a long-haul flight directly from Manchester. That drive from Yorkshire down to London Gatwick or Heathrow is one royal pain in the ass! Although British Airways offers a number of short-haul routes, this proves less compelling as many of these destinations are served by a variety of other airlines out of the same airport.


Virgin Atlantic for long-haul

British Airways for short-haul

map of North of england airports
Manchester airport

Destinations from London

British Airways offers 123 destinations from London so there are simply too many to list. You can check out all the options on the British Airways Beta route map but it is fair to say that British Airways win regardless of the London airport you wish to fly from.

British Airways routes from London
British Airways routes from London

The following tables show the Virgin Atlantic routes from London.

Destinations from London Gatwick

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Cuba χ
Las Vegas
St Lucia

Destinations from London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Barbados χ
Hong Kong
Los Angeles
New York
San Francisco

As you can see, British Airways operate almost all the routes that Virgin does from Heathrow. However, from London British Airways have much better coverage overall. British Airways offer 30 destinations in North America, 6 in Central and South East Asia, 21 in the Middle East, 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 10 in the Far East and Australia.

postcards of the United States
United States collage


On this basis, British Airways has the best airline rewards program from London as they have greater potential to find suitable routes.

Destinations from Glasgow

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Orlando χ
London χ  

Both airlines offer one route from Glasgow. Arguably British Airways is really a business connection into London whilst the Virgin route to Orlando is more tourist related. That said, British Airways offer a wealth of destinations from London so those flying from Belfast have a greater choice of routes with British Airways. Virgin Atlantic does not offer connecting flights to London.

Winner: British Airways

Destinations from Edinburgh

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Florence χ  
London χ  
Palma χ  

Winner: British Airways

Destinations from Aberdeen, Inverness, Isle of Man, Leeds and Newcastle

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
London χ  

Winner: British Airways

Destinations from Belfast

Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Orlando χ
London χ

For other UK regional airports, British Airways generally offers a greater choice of routes, and a direct connection to London to connect onto other destinations. Virgin Atlantic only operate long-haul flights to key destinations so it may be difficult for those living outside London or Manchester to find suitable redemption flights.

Winner: British Airways

Overall best UK airline rewards program

Overall, British Airways wins simply because of the sheer number of routes that the airline operates. Although the airline does not offer long-haul flights from regional airports, it offers regional flights which connect onwards via London.

British Airways plane flying
British Airways plane

However, for those living near Manchester, the Virgin network of long-haul destinations is highly appealing, albeit limited.

Overall, British Airways offers a greater diversity of routes including long and short haul and regional connections into London.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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