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Mistake or madness? Virgin Flying Club adds £200+ to USA Upper Class flight surcharges

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Either something has gone wrong with the Virgin Atlantic pricing computer, or someone at Virgin Atlantic has been smoking something dodgy this week.

Whichever reason it is, pricing for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class redemptions to the US – and only the US, and only if you fly with Virgin Atlantic – has gone crazy.

The taxes and charges figure for ALL Virgin Atlantic Upper Class redemptions to the US from Heathrow is now showing as £764 return.  From Gatwick it is £732.

Take a look, Heathrow to Atlanta (click to enlarge):

Virgin Atlantic increases tax sharply

As you can see …. £764 of taxes and charges.

This could be a mistake of some sort …. hopefully.  Here’s why.

This screenshot shows the same route, Heathrow to Atlanta, but flying with Virgin’s partner and main shareholder Delta:

Virgin Atlantic increases miles taxes

With Delta, you pay just £464 in taxes and charges.  It is exactly £300 cheaper, to the penny, reflecting the additional £300 of charges that Virgin is adding to its own flights for some reason.

This is only happening with Virgin Atlantic routes to the US.

Here is a screenshot to Shanghai:

Virgin Atlantic increases taxes

The taxes and charges are the same as they always were – £557.

Johannesburg is unchanged at £573.  Barbados is unchanged at £533.  The same goes for all other non-US routes that I checked.

So …. what is happening here?  Has a gremlin got into the Virgin Atlantic pricing computer?  Does it really want you to stop redeeming for US routes in Upper Class?  Does it really want you to start flying Delta on routes where the two airlines share the flights (Atlanta, Boston, New York etc)?

It is all very, very odd.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 2023)

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 bonus points 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 & four 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.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable 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 bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (128)

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  • Jon Arnold says:

    Way better value to buy an economy ticket and upgrade; LHR-JFK return, standard season, mid-September, Economy delight at £363 + 71,200 miles upgrade compared to a reward flight of £764 ‘taxes’ + 95,000 miles. Just as long as you know you can upgrade when you buy the ticket I suppose. Makes no sense to buy a reward ticket, unless I’m missing something? I do this frequently on Emirates.

    • Lev441 says:

      Can all economy classes be upgraded?

      I guess you do have 24hrs to cancel if ticket booked on…

      Are there any additional taxes/fees/surcharges to pay on upgrades?

      • Lev441 says:

        Just found from the website..
        ‘Please note: Taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges from $273 apply to all upgrade Reward Flights.’

      • Alan says:

        Only Economy Classic and above (Light cannot be).

        Correct re free cancellation in 24h

        Unfortunately (having just tried this) there’s no saving to be had here as they charge the difference in YQ (as well as the APD difference), which wipes out the miles saving.

        Example – I was looking at MAN-MCO/BOS-MAN return – cost me 95,000 + £638 as straight UC redemption

        Then booked same flights in economy for £536.50. Was thinking great, only pay 71,200 miles and saving in cash would pretty much cover APD. HOWEVER – YQ component was only £200 on Economy Classic ticket – they up this to their new standard £500 UC level once you upgrade so comes to £394 extra to pay.

        So straight redemption (at 0.75ppm value) = £1,350.50
        Economy Classic + upgrade = £1,464.50

        So £114 *more* to upgrade due to YQ (slightly less once you take account of miles from underlying ticket, but that’s at most only about £35.

        What would have *really* annoyed lots of folk here was the way the call centre rep kept referring to the ‘tax difference’ and that it had been ‘imposed’ on them. I kept explaining there was a small APD difference, but otherwise it was all the VS-imposed YQ carrier surcharges that was the issue!

        • Lev441 says:


          Such a rip off but thanks for trying it out.

        • Lady London says:

          We almost need some mystery shoppers who can deliberately have and record such conversations with the airlines that are imposing these ridiculous YQ (Carrier Greed) charges and yet still trying to bamboozle the average punter into thinking it’s all government tax.

          It would be great if someone finally was able to get the regulators to look at this and stop the practice. Whatever the airlines say, they’re lying that they’re not trying to confuse us.

          • Alan says:

            After BA got slapped with a big fine and need to pay compensation in the USA for “fuel surcharges” I thought they’d all start to be a bit more honest about these spurious fees, but clearly not!

    • Alan says:

      Yep, carrier-imposed charges – see my full costing below that I’ve just worked out 🙁

      • Jon Arnold says:

        Hmm, I thought I’d found a way round it! With Emirates it’s a whole lot more transparent – as you book you can see what flights have upgrades available and the miles it’ll cost you – and there’s no additional fees/taxes; typically it costs 39,000 miles to upgrade from economy-flex to business for a London-Dubai one way ticket. Have to say Virgin are a bit sneeky here and rather opaque. And basically these ‘fees/taxes’ are quite a rip-off. £760 for a 6 or 7 hour flight!! Maybe better to use up my 200k miles on ANA or a partner airline rather than Virgin? Anyone know the fees/taxes for a reward ticket for a business return to Tokyo on ANA (using Flyermiles – and how is availability?

        • Alan says:

          120k + £400 for return in ANA F from LHR to HND – way way way better value! (am flying that in a few months :D)

          I’d heard EK upgrades were a good deal, have a friend in Oz who makes a lot of use of them.

        • Jon Arnold says:

          ANA F to Tokyo for 120k +£400 round trip….12 + 12 hours of awesome luxury and amazing food on a 5 star airline. That is a good deal!

  • Martin Lewis says:

    I’ve also checked some flight options and previous posters are correct. VA has definitely targeted reward and Airmile flyers with their own surcharges to North America. This feels like a very cunning way of devaluing an airmile whilst also throttling back demand on their most lucrative North Amercian routes. I think VA have discovered that too many people are actually cashing in their miles and not leaving them unused.

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