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

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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.

delta airline virgin atlantic

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.

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.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (54)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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?

  • Danie; says:

    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!
    Thanks

    • 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…

    • Rob says:

      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!

      • Rob says:

        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).

  • Mark Byron Dowie says:

    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.

  • 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?

  • 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).

    • xcalx says:

      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.

  • Mike says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • jamie says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

      • Cate says:

        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….

  • 50% Off Europe Tickets Today Only and Drink More Alcohol at Disney - View from the Wing says:

    […] Virgin Atlantic is currently charging 10% of lowest fare for infant tickets on awards instead of just a handful of miles. […]

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