TUI vs Virgin – Who’s Best For Flying To Florida

Given that Florida is a long-haul flight from the UK averaging roughly eight and a half hours, the airline you choose to fly with can be incredibly important. 

TUI and Virgin are two of the most popular airlines to fly with from the UK to Florida with.

In our experience, Virgin is slightly better than TUI for flying to Florida with a broader range of onboard entertainment and better food.

However, the difference between the two airlines is relatively minimal. As such, we’d only pay up to £40 per person for the experience.

That being said, choosing which airline is best isn’t always a decision about price.

Instead, it can often be a combination of factors including departure and arrival airports, flight times and package holiday deals.

Departure Airports

We live in Leeds in the north of the UK, as such, we like to fly to Florida from Manchester or Birmingham where possible.

We like to fly with an airline that departs from an airport within a two hours drive of our home because;

  • It minimise the need for a hotel the night before our flight
  • It reduces the amount of time we spend driving before or after our flight
  • It helps to save on petrol and the associated costs

In some cases TUI and Virgin both serve the same departure airports in the UK. However, in others only one airline is available.

UK airports TUI flies to Florida from;

  • London Gatwick
  • Belfast International
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Doncaster Sheffield
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester
  • Newcastle

UK airports Virgin flies to Florida from;

  • Birmingham
  • London Heathrow
  • Manchester

Arrival Airports

The state of Florida spans 65,758 square miles and is roughly two-thirds the size of the UK.

As a result, choosing which airport you fly into when arriving in Florida can be just as important as where you depart from back in the UK.

Florida airports TUI flys to;

  • Melbourne International (MLB)

Florida airports Virgin flys to;

  • Daytona Beach (DAB)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Fort Myers (RSW)
  • Fort Walton Beach (VPS)
  • Gainesville (GNV)
  • Jacksonville (JAX)
  • Key West (EYW)
  • Melbourne (MLB)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Panama City (ECP)
  • Pensacola (PNS)

While Virgin has flights to significantly more Florida airports than TUI they also operate a codeshare and work with airline partners.

As such you may book to fly with Virgin to Florida but instead find yourself flying with Delta, Air France and KLM.

Flights with Virgin are also available both direct and indirect.

As such you may find a flight from Manchester to Pensacola for example, but find that instead, you’ll have to stop and change aircraft at one or even two airports.

For us personally, regardless of airline, we’d always favour direct flights over indirect flights and as such are willing to pay £100 more per person to fly direct from / to the airport(s) of our choice.

Flight Times

The majority of Virgin’s flights from the UK to Florida depart between 11am and 1pm and are therefore scheduled to arrive in Florida between 3pm and 5pm local time.

Meanwhile, the majority of Virgin’s flights back to the UK from Florida are scheduled to depart between 6pm and 8pm and arrive back in the UK between 7am and 9am the following morning.

With TUI flights leave the UK significantly earlier, often between 9am and 12 midday and arrive in Florida between 1pm and 4pm local time.

Coming back to the UK from Florida with TUI the majority of flights depart between 3pm and 6pm and arrive back in the UK between 4am and 7am the following morning.

In our opinion, TUI’s flights create significantly more jetlag both on the outbound and inbound journeys since the hope is that you’d stay awake until the evening local time.

Onboard Entertainment

One of the most significant differences between TUI and Virgin is the onboard entertainment.

There are roughly six to eight films on TUI with the same options being available on both the inbound and outbound flights

Meanwhile, with Virgin you have an extensive range of onboard entertainment from the latest films to a number of episodes of the latest TV shows.

Onboard Food

No plane food is nice plane food, but in our opinion, Virgin is ever so slightly better than TUI in this department.

Both offer a range of food and drink complimentary throughout the flight. However, the quality of the food on Virgin does tend to be ever so slightly better.

Luggage Allowance

If you’ve booked a flight-only package with TUI or Virgin then checked-in luggage to be stored in the hold is not included.

With Virgin, this means upgrading from Economy Light to standard Economy and with TUI this means either upgrading or adding bags and paying for them separately.

The cost of upgrading from Economy Light to Economy with Virgin is £100 roundtrip.

Meanwhile, the cost of adding bags on with TUI is £45 per bag each way.

TUI restricts the weight of checked-in baggage to 20kg, meanwhile Virgin has a maximum weight of 23kg,

These additional charges do not apply to those booking a package holiday with either airline. In that case, hold baggage is included with one bag per person (infants not included).

Of course, if you’re happy travelling with hand luggage only then there are no additional charges with either airline provided that your bag meets the weight and measurement requirements set by the airline.

Upgrades

Both TUI and Virgin offer a range of flight upgrades at an additional cost.

With Virgin upgrades are;

  • Economy Classic – Includes hold baggage
  • Economy Delight – Extra legroom
  • Premium – Includes larger pitch seats
  • Upper Class – VIP Check-in, airport lounge entry & flat lay seats

With TUI the upgrades are;

  • Select Your Seat – Select where you sit on the flight
  • Extra Legroom – Larger pitch seats
  • Premium – VIP check-in, airport lounge entry and the biggest & comfiest seats

Note that the option to select your seat (along with hold luggage) is provided when booking a TUI holiday instead of a flight-only package.

Package Holidays

Both Virgin and TUI offer flights only or package holidays.

Package holidays can be booked online or in person from one of the TUI or Virgin Holiday stores.

We’ve found that TUI often has a significantly better range of accommodation available in Florida; especially in Orlando.

With a range of villas, resorts and hotels including on-site properties at Universal Studios Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.

While Virgin also covers properties at Universal Studios Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World we’ve found that the choice of villas and resort hotels elsewhere in Florida can be slightly more limited.

Cost

If the biggest factor in who you fly to Florida with is price then you’ll likely find TUI comes out on top.

We’re an incredibly budget-conscious family and regularly fly with TUI over Virgin since they come out around 20% cheaper option 9 times out of 10.

If Virgin is only around £40 per person more and is flying direct from the same airport (Manchester or Birmingham) then we would likely choose them.

However, that pretty much never happens and instead the difference between the two airlines is often upwards of £100 each which for us personally isn’t worth it.

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