Virgin Flying Club makes its cancellation policy WORSE – and doesn’t tell anyone

For many years, a lot of frequent flyers gave Virgin Flying Club a wide berth.  The reason was its archaic cancellation policy.

These were the rules which existed until September 2013:

Cancel your mileage flight and you lose 25% of the miles used

Cancel your mileage flight within 7 days of departure and you lose 100% of the miles used

As far as I was concerned, this was simply not acceptable. People often save miles for years to get a reward flight, so impose a swingeing 25% penalty if they had to cancel – even many months before departure – was simply not on.

Virgin Atlantic

With no ceremony or announcement, Virgin quietly changed its policy 14 months ago.  The Virgin terms and conditions for Flying Club redemptions turned into this:

If for any reason a flight reward is cancelled by the Member outside 24 hours of departure, 100% of the Miles will be re-credited to the member’s account. A cancellation fee of £30 for changes to flights originating in the UK, US$50 for changes to flights originating in the US or local currency equivalent of US$50 for changes to flights originating in any other region will apply. If for any reason a flight reward is cancelled within 24 hours prior to departure, no Miles will be refunded and no fee will be charged. If you change the original travel date (within 24 hours of departure) and later decide to cancel your flights, you will forfeit the mileage used for the reward. Once travel has commenced Miles cannot be refunded. Except as expressly stated in these Flying Club Terms, Miles are not refundable and changes or revalidation are not permitted in case of no-show.

However, for reasons which I cannot begin to understand, Virgin has partially rolled back the clock.

The cancellation terms and conditions (4.2.1) now say:

If for any reason a flight Reward is cancelled by the Member outside 7 days of departure, 100% of the Miles will be re-credited to the Member’s account. A cancellation fee of £30 for changes to flights originating in the UK, US$50 for changes to flights originating in the US or local currency equivalent of US$50 for changes to flights originating in any other region will apply.  If for any reason a flight Reward is cancelled by a member within 7 days prior to departure, no Miles will be refunded and a £30 administration fee will be charged to process the refund of any taxes, charges/sur-charges. If you change the original travel date (within 7 days of departure) and later decide to cancel your flights, you will forfeit the mileage used for the Reward. Once travel has commenced Miles cannot be refunded. Except as expressly stated in these Flying Club Terms, Miles are not refundable and changes or revalidation are not permitted in case of no-show.

The period where you will lose 100% of your miles has been pushed out from 24 hours to 7 days.

For most people, of course, this will not be a problem.  One possible situation is that you will not be able to cancel an economy or Premium Economy redemption if Upper Class opened up at the last minute.  You also have the risk of cancellation due to last-minute problems at work or minor health issues – and travel insurance is usually very vague when covering the loss of your miles.

Virgin has generally shadowed British Airways in setting its policies whilst usually being just a little bit better.  There is a reason why the Virgin Black credit card has an 18,500 mile sign-up bonus whilst the British Airways Premium Plus Amex offers 18,000 Avios.  It seems odd for Virgin to make a change like this which opens up a gap between Avios and Flying Club.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic, Little Red and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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Comments

  1. If you had an economy or PE redemption, wouldn’t you be able to just pay the extra miles to upgrade to a G in upper class if it came up?

    • Yes. I’ve changed redemption tickets a few times this way and I’ve always paid the additional charges/ taxes.

    • I tried that a week or so ago. There was no availability but I was also told my PE reward ticket was the wrong class to allow upgrade to UC. Disappointed UC was full but I’d have been really upset if there were seats and I couldn’t upgrade. Be good if someone could explain this rules fully.

      • Was it one of the econojy to PE upgrade vouchers from the VS credit card? If so these aren’t upgradeable any further. AFAIK all other rewards can be taken further if availability comes up (at the cost of the extra miles and taxes)

      • You can only upgrade from PE to UC if your original ticket is upgradeable. I was fortunate to have booked “S” class seats in the first instance and was able to upgrade one way for 12,500 miles. Virgin has a table that defines all the seat classes. PE “S” appears to be the only seat that you can upgrade to UC.

        AFAIK, you cannot upgrade reward tickets from PE to UC…..I have just tried and got a resounding NO.

        • You can upgrade reward flights from P/E to U/C, and even E to U/C (unlike BA), by just paying the diff in miles and taxes (assuming availability). I think BA differ as they ‘cancel’ the original booking and rebook into the next cabin (and that means the money goes to and fro as well as the miles)

          However, if you have used a Virgin Amex upgrade voucher to go from E to P/E then, as Etk mentioned, these are not upgradeable to U/C

  2. wetboy1uk says:

    Is there no way of claiming something off insurance though if it was due to medical conditions – its no different really to booking a package holiday or non cancellable flight so would make no difference at all to me

    • What do you intend to claim? Your miles legally have no cash value, the rules say that.

    • Lady London says:

      Very very few travel policies cover reimbursement of miles even in the same circumstances as a cash fare would be. Some policies even explicitly state they will not reimburse miles or tickets not purchased with cash or even specifically “award tickets” are not covered. You have to read the small print on each policy. And check each time you renew or take out a new policy, because conditions in the small print often change from year to year.

  3. I had an email from Iberia Plus saying their Ts&Cs have changed, but I haven’t had a chance to read through them thoroughly yet. Does anyone know if there are big changes?

    • Seems not from the quick glance I saw apart from the one flagged in the email – that they can now make major changes with just one month notice. Which does not instill confidence!

  4. It always strikes one as offside to see a rule change sneaked in without notice, but on the positive side at least VS have reward seats they make available to members in the front cabins, unlike other less generous scheme operators. For that reason and a generally good bunch who operate the call centre, VS is still worth more in my eyes than the shocking scheme that is Avios.

  5. Virgin also let you hold redemption seats for a few days whilst you get your miles sorted or think about it! Which is pretty useful to be fair….giving you enough time to convince the other half 😉

  6. I have spoken to VS today to clarify this change and the agent told me that the website is incorrect and the rules are 24hrs. The agent then double checked with a supervisor who confirmed the same.
    Apparently they have sent a note to the web team to update the site.

    I’m still worried that the agents could be wrong, although it seems strange that they wouldn’t have been briefed on a big change like this. For reference the T&C’s on the website say that they were last updated in February, so that confuses things even more…

    • It would be interesting if this was true, because someone has Virgin has pro-actively upgraded the site to make it 7 days. It has NOT accidentally gone back to the old 2013 wording.

      I know the Virgin PR team reads this site and they have not been in touch to tell me I am wrong.

  7. avidsaver says:

    Disappointing to see Virgin going down the competition route (like Avios) this quarter with Tesco cc. I’d much prefer a bonus and now favour Virgin Miles over Avios because of far better availability in business (upper) class.

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