A painful change to Virgin’s policy on infant redemption tickets

The relaunch of the Virgin Atlantic website last month will not go down as one of the greatest IT triumphs of the year, to put it mildly.

As well as general technical issues – such as not being able to access your account – there has also been some loss of functionality.  This ranges from the mild (the loss of the referral bonus for introducing new members to Flying Club) to the seriously annoying (the reduced functionality of the ‘month at a time’ availability calendar for Virgin Flying Club redemptions).

There is one very serious issue which has been introduced, however.  Redemption tickets for infants are no longer charged at 200 miles (Economy), 750 miles (Premium Economy) or 1500 miles (Upper Class) plus taxes and charges.

They are now charged at 10% of the lowest cash fare, plus taxes and charges.

This appears to have been forced on Virgin by the limitations of the new booking software, which they have inherited from 49% shareholder Delta.  The new policy is identical to the Delta policy.

Virgin has told me that they are working on a way of getting around this and reverting to the old system but that it will not be possible until H1 2017.

How bad can this be?  Very bad indeed, actually.

delta airline virgin atlantic

Let’s assume you are booking an Upper Class redemption to New York, return, for 1st to 10th February and want to take your 1-year old with you.

This would previously have cost you 3,000 miles plus taxes and charges.

Today, it will cost you 10% of the cheapest Upper Class return cash ticket on those dates which would be £179.50 (10% of £1,795) plus taxes and charges.  This is not too bad, although Upper Class is rarely this cheap for cash.

Let’s imagine you only need a one way flight though.

A one-way Upper Class flight to New York on 1st February will cost you £5,551 (that is not a typo!).  This means that Virgin will ask you for £555, plus taxes and charges, for your infant redemption ticket.

If you need to travel with an infant who does not require a seat (ie will be under 2 on the date of outbound travel) then you may want to think carefully before planning to book a reward seat with Virgin, at least until they have found a way to go back to charging a nominal number of miles.

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  1. Terence Bartlett says:

    Virgin are still all over the place with their newly launched website.Previously a husband and wife separate membership with separate Flying Club Memberships could share the same Email Address
    Not any longer? Separate Email Addresses now required for each member.In our case a duplication of effort ,double junk mail from subsidiaries,and increased security risks presenting hackers with two opportunities in stead of one . It’s time Virgin Atlantic introduced DELTA to previous best practise of its own and not adopt the dictates of DELTA. The letters of which in baggage terms represent “Didn’t Even Leave The Airport? As for the other changes Rob has pointed out Is a definite downgrade by Virgin of its service and a stealth tax on young children

    • th real harry says:

      Couldn’t you just use an alias of the first email address then everything would arrive in the same inbox?

    • put the email addresses as [email protected] and [email protected] and they will go to the same place.

    • Since the recent changes I’ve given up with Virgin. With more than 10 years of being a happy customer, all the feeling of loyalty I had has been destroyed in such a short time. I will not be flying them again except to use up my existing air miles, which to date has been a struggle. I have found it hard to use them to upgrades (none available) and I repeated a holiday (through Virgin holidays) to requalify for Silver, only to find they changed the point system. They down graded the points just before I flew so I would no longer requalify for Silver! I normally fly Premiun Economy, but they have cut down on flight crew on the flights too, and it’s noticeable that the crew are struggling to cope even with simple issues.

    • You’ve picked the one change which is absolutely sensible.

  2. th real harry says:

    For anybody struggling to access their Virgin a/c – don’t make multiple attempts getting it wrong as it’s 3 strikes & you’re out – you have to phone Virgin to sort it out. Simply re-set your password which is a straightforward if long-winded method.

    • I discovered this despite having the correct password, still not been able to get it sorted though thanks to Virgin’s CS being jam packed each time I call!

  3. If a one-way is £5000 and a return £1700, why not just book the return but not turn up for the return leg?

    “Hi Virgin, we’re not going to make it today – we’ve decided to stay on a few more days. Yes, I understand my ticket was not flexible or refundable, thank you”.

    • th real harry says:

      Because you read the small print & are scared of getting billed the difference?

      Pretty much unknown for airlines to chase individuals – but they have been known to chase travel agencies for the difference.

    • Because you’d need to book a return for the adult, too, meaning an extra 40,000 miles or whatever it is now.

  4. I recently travelled two redemption flights in Upper Class with a 6 month old. I was charged 10% of the MILES amount and not the cash value of the ticket. Taxes on infants had also been scrapped. I did travel on Virgin America (first class) during the same trip & I was charged 10% of the cash value. I hope they get their policies clarified soon because this would make a big differences to me when considering a trip in Feb 2017.

    • Virgin America is now part of Alaska Airlines, so policies will be aligned to Alaska probably.

    • Domestic flights within the US are free for infants, where exactly did you go…

  5. I was on Virgin’s “new site” & they asked me to rate it .

    Got the bit, why did you give it this score – reply, because I couldn’t give anything lower than zero

  6. OT but virgin related,
    Hubby recently traveled on virgin and a wheel on our expensive suitcase was knocked off. The suitcase has 10 year warranty. This was only second time it was used (bought in July). Where should I claim-virgin or manufacturer?

    • Normally you should claim suitcase damage in the baggage hall

      • Lady London says:

        It’ better if you do, but often it’s in the airline it’s and c’s that you can contact them up to 7 days after the flight.

    • Both. Manufacturer for defective product. Virgin for defective service. Both will be subject to any standard exclusions in the small print though.

      And you shouldn’t be over-compensated; i.e. if you recover from one, you should discontinue your claim against the other.

    • Jonathan says:

      Suitcase manufacturer warranty won’t cover airport baggage control. The airlines from my experience are pretty good and in the case of emirates at least had a third party pick the suitcase up for repair. Upon not having the parts, they simply replaced the item for an equivalent better brand

  7. Regarding Virgin redemptions. It looks like the best value for money is to upgrade a premium economy ticket to upper class.

    What is the process for actually booking a return flight on a popular route?

    My research suggests I need to be online at midnight (UTC) 331 days before I want to fly, waiting for reward seats to be released. Then:

    1. Buy a one way X fare Premium Economy seat for the outbound leg
    2. Phone up Virgin Flying Club and request an upgrade to Upper Class
    3. Wait a couple of weeks until the return flights become available, then book repeat the process for the return leg.

    Can anyone confirm or point out pitfalls?

    • If I understand your plan: buy two one way cash tickets and use points to upgrade… main issue is likely to be cost.

      For example, assuming you wanted to fly LHR-JFK on 4/11/17 and back 11/11/17, two one-way premium economy tickets would cost £1770.67 (Booking class W) + $2,225 (Booking class S); a return ticket would be £1529 (Booking class S both ways).

      If you’re very time constrained, doing a T-33x booking and splitting into one-way segments works great for pure points redemptions.

      If you have some flexibility, flying to most destinations (major exception HKG), you are likely to be able to still find an upgrade booking even if you have to wait a couple of weeks after release. If unlucky, more seats also seem to appear over time, so being eagle eyed can pay off.

    • Classes explained…

      Economy lowest fare booking classes:
      O, N, V, X, U, M, B, E

      Economy higher fare or Flexible booking classes:
      R, L, Y, although mostly just Y is most flexible.

      Premium economy lowest fare booking classes:
      K, H

      Premium economy higher fare or Flexible booking classes: S, W

      Upper class lowest fare booking classes:
      Z, I ( I and above include chauffeur driven car)

      Upper class higher fare or Flexible classes:
      C, D, J although all relatively Flexible, J is the most

      Reward booking classes:
      Economy T
      Premium P
      Upper class G

      Lowest class that can be purchased with revenue to upgrade with miles is:
      Economy X
      Premium K

  8. ThinkSquare says:

    Best comment on this subject (from a letter in Business Traveller):

    “If you can afford to take a child in business class, you can afford a nanny to take them in economy”


  9. mark1980 says:

    Well thats put a spanner in the works for my dubai trip in March. Was going to do VS outbound and Qatar inbound. Anyone know what Air Berlin’s infant policy is for TXL – AUH?

  10. OT – I have BA flights booked for next week and a BA flight+hotel package booked for the middle of next year. I am no longer able to go to either for personal reasons. Is there any way I can get any sort of money back from them? Look at the BA website it seems not but maybe there are tricks of the trade known by the experts on here!

    • Wayne Phillips says:

      If you don’t fly, you will/should be able to claim back the APD and some other taxes.
      I’ve done it before, but not with BA.

      Someone will be along shortly to help…

    • Did you pay for the flight and hotel upfront? Would have been better to just pay the deposit with the balance 10 weeks before – you would have just lost your deposit in that case.

      Nothing you can do with the flights unless you get lucky and BA staff call a strike!

      • Check the BA Holidays small print. There may be some leeway there. If nothing else, you could probably switch the hotel booking to someone else (via the hotel, not via BA).

  11. I know my friend tried but he was unsuccessful. Maybe it is one of those things where you need to know the system. It may take a lot of research.

  12. Toby Walsh says:

    OT: Has anyone had any experience trying to get the Amex Shop small statement credits from Lloyds and MBNA if it hasn’t appeared? All cards were registered (11 in all!) and all worked fine in our local shops and received the credit… apart from at a restaurant which was on the map and no cards have received the credit!

    My cards issued directly from Amex were manually credited immediately when I phoned to check, but Lloyds are saying I have to phone the retailer and MBNA are saying it’s to do with Amex… :/

    Any ideas?

  13. Scanditraveller says:

    Iberia has the same policy, something I learned the hard way.

    Two weeks ago I wanted to book 2x adult / 1x infant one-way business class tickets from London via Madrid to Rio de Janeiro. Since you can’t book infant tickets on Iberia.com I called to make the booking. The agent I spoke to couldn’t see the same availability as I could see on iberia.com so she recommended me to book the 2x adult tickets on iberia.com and then call back to add the infant for “10% of the cost of the adult ticket”.

    I did just that, but when I called back that same agent (by chance) told me she meant 10% of the the cash cost for the one-way ticket, which happened to work out to £600-700 pounds. The agent even apologised and admitted she had given me misleading information, but said she couldn’t waive any cancellation fees. I told her to cancel the 2x adult tickets which I had just booked, but I am still fighting with them to get a refund. I haven’t even received my Avios back despite it being promised multiple times.

    While I dont necessarily like all of BA’s policies, at least they are usually very well explained on ba.com and refunds are automatic and quick. Iberia, on the other hand, has virtually no information on Iberia.com so you fully rely on information from call centre agents (with generally poor English language skills).

    • Use the Iberia customer service email address. I have always had excellent service via this route. They usually ring you back within 48 hours and their English skills are far better than the call centre staff. Just the other day I booked a flight for a beneficiary. I was sure I booked it correctly but the booking showed my details as the passenger. The call centre said I had to pay to change the name. A quick email and I received a call within 48 hours and they sorted the name change with no added fees.

  14. Love it how someone with a nanny moans about paying 10% of the cash price! LOL

    In reality is this that bad? You are unlikely to buy a one way in upper-class. Thus is an unrealistic example to make headlines.

    • I think you’ve missed the point. Yes, it is unrealistic that you would buy a one-way in Upper Class for cash BUT that is the price Virgin bases the 10% on if you only book a one way redemption.

      And it is totally realistic that you may book a one way redemption – I have a one way Upper Class redemption in the diary myself, and did another one earlier this year. One of the benefits of having a stash of Avios and Virgin miles (or a currency like Amex points which converts to both) is that you can mix and match across schemes on the same trip.

      A nanny is, economically, a sensible option if your wife can earn enough to justify it. My Mrs is not spending her days at pilates classes whilst the nanny runs around with the kids, she has a senior City job.

      • Leo (not the one who asked a q on other thread) says:

        +1 Rob. Of course it’s entirely realistic – and fairly common in the points world to book a one way redemption. Doing exactly the same thing myself with VS from LAX – LHR. Very common scenario would be day flight LHR to JFK out BA in WT+ and VS UC back overnight.

  15. travelling in F to NY tomorrow with our 6 week old, first plane trip for him.

    any advice on F travel with a baby?..will the other passengers who may have paid 5,000 gbp for their ticket gonna give us death stares?

    • The rest of the cabin are probably Avios ticket holders or people who booked Club and got an upgrade via the ‘free one-way upgrade to F’ promo! Babies tend to sleep pretty well in my experience, 2-3 year old kids are more troublesome. I only started letting my kids fly F last year when our youngest was 4.

      • To be fair I see many people nowadays in F or Bizz class who likely got their seats via avios. Give me well behaved children anytime compared to someone who spends the entire flight talking loudly how he got his seat for free….

  16. OT: anyone know where I can find the Avios peak/off-peak calendar for 2018? Or have BA not released it yet?