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