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.

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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

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Comments

  1. mark heath says:

    Just in time for the new A350 launch?
    Never could of seen this coming.

    • ChrisC says:

      Well BAs revenue flights pricing for the A359 flights to Toronto were higher when I looked than the other non 350 flight so perhaps new planes means a premium?.

      It wouldn’t explain these prices though as VS hasn’t scheduled their A350s to individual flights yet plus don’t get theirs for a few more months.

    • Just in time for the new A350 launch?.

      Never could have seen this coming.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        There’s 1 plane atm. Hardly the reason for £300 across every route

        • Zero aircraft at the moment. The first aircraft is yet to be delivered and is due to enter service this summer.
          Personally I can’t see this being connected to 350.

  2. ChrisC says:

    It is not taxes it’s surcharges that are the issue here.

    You get it right in the headline so you could have got it right in the article,

    Someone asked yesterday if you might write write something on surcharges one mile at a time wrote a comprehensive piece yesterday. Are they reading your comments? Lol

    • Exactly, if they were taxes, then clearly the first line of the article is appropriate, because the governments involved must publicly announce taxes, thus unexplained increases are likely to be mistakes.

      As they are surcharges, which are calculated by undisclosed means, it could easily be the case that this is a deliberate increase by VS.

  3. Radiata says:

    Looking at a cash ticket LHR-JFK (out 19/4 back 26/4) “taxes, fees and charges” total £267.52 and, shown separately, carrier imposed surcharges a nice round number. £500.

    I had wondered whether simply the number calculated in USD mistakenly and then shown as GBP but the £500 suggests deliberate.

  4. Booked Miami a few months ago in upper it was £665 each
    I double checked over the phone

  5. It’s NOT TAX.
    It’s a rip off fee charged by the carrier, kept by the carrier. Most ex U.K. charges are carrier fees with less than 1/3rd being a tax.

    Please call these charges what the are.

  6. Jonathan says:

    May well be a deliberate move but not intended to target redemptions.

    Most corporate discounts/rebates don’t include YQ in the kickbacks so a sneaky way of reducing effective discount whilst not changing headline rate is to increase carrier charges & reduce fare. Can often see cash fares of less than £10 in economy & £400 in J. The side effect of this is that you also get hammered on redemptions.

    I completely agree it’s a joke that they can continue to lump carrier surcharges in with taxes & fees & get away with portraying them as anything but profiteering.

    • Nigel the Pensioner says:

      Its always been a Ryan Air type trick; charges are just a way of increasing the fare. We all know that the fare is 1p each way and the rest is just “charges”! I thought this type of pricing had been made illegal but clearly is not enforced. It needs to be a fully shown fare (including airline and airport security charges etc) with just respective govt taxes added. If you “don’t show” you just get govt taxes back. That’s fair and it’s clear.

      • Callum says:

        You just have to show the total price, which Virgin does. Nothing illegal about having a carrier surcharge.

  7. SydneySwan says:

    Surcharges are a ”usage fee” to use your points. Virgin (and many other airlines – BA, Qantas, etc.) are very happy to sell you their points and then when you try to exchange them for a flight they want you to pay again for this privilege. It is an absolutely disgraceful business practice.

  8. Alex W says:

    The government ought to get a grip of this practice and outlaw it.

    • Frenzie01 says:

      The government is currently busy with other things.
      When they have lots of free time, I am sure they will start thinking about REWARD FLIGHTS.

      • They admitted that they couldn’t look at drones because they had to deal with Brexit, so I’m a bit sceptical that they would care about reward flights, to be completely honest with you…

        • The government of Brazil managed to outlaw surcharges.

          The government of Hong Kong, unlike what Rob says, did not outlaw them but merely insisted that a fuel surcharge was just that, i.e. a response to unpredicted high fuel prices and when the oil price dropped they said there was no basis for surcharging on fuel. Strictly speaking HK never outlawed a copay on redemptions.

    • KBuffett says:

      I suspect the airlines have too much power so will never be taken to task. Rather like petrol prices.

      • The difference with petrol prices is that it is all tax. Duty and VAT (which is a tax on a tax) and 4p or 5p a litre profit for the retailer.

      • Callum says:

        Airlines don’t have any special “power” – why would you think they do?

  9. Frenzie01 says:

    It is a bit of both.
    It is a MISTAKE because I shall stop collecting Virgin miles for now and focus on AVIOS.
    It is MADNESS, because if you pay £700+ for something it isn’t really a reward anymore is it?

    • RakishDriver says:

      Couldn’t have put it better myself!

    • Darren says:

      You might want avoid BA to SIN, over £900 in ‘fees’.

      • Darren says:

        ‘Fact Checked’ my comment on BA and it looks like the fee’s are £595 but on RewardFlightFinder.com it states £926??

        Apologies.

        • I saw that higher price , and left SIN out of my search. Must add it back in.

          If Tim is reading this, maybe he can correct the pricing.

    • BA to Virgin

      “You’ve just upped you YQ for funding a new A350 fleet?”

      “Hold my beer”

  10. Please, please, please use the correct phrase of “taxes, fees, and charges” when referring to the sum of government taxes, airport fees, and airline surcharges collected on a ticket. You can abbreviate as “TFCs” after first use.

    Using the phrase “taxes” is incorrect financially and journalistically, and even though some may understand that the phrase is only shorthand for TFCs; many will not, and the error perpetuates.

    • Big norm says:

      I just don’t understand why there is so much anger at the use of a phrase.
      Yes it’s incorrect to say this full amount is a tax, but it’s a general phrase used across the industry.
      Nobody cares what the real breakdown of this is when you consider what is technically a tax and what is technically a charge.
      Ultimately can’t change it so does it really matter what the breakdown is.

      At the core of a mileage program the miles you receive are free, it’s a reward for flying with the airline . Therefore in theory the taxes you pay are the only thing you are paying for the flight – and on paper £700 for a business class flight is a very good deal.

      For the record I don’t think that the increase is fair . But at the same time it wouldn’t stop me from redeeming if it was a route I wanted to fly . Unless JetBlue starts doing £1200 returns on mint.

      • > Nobody cares what the real breakdown of this is…

        Speak for yourself!

        > on paper £700 for a business class flight is a very good deal

        You’re actually valuing your miles at zero? NB: Whether you paid for something and whether it has a value are separate things to most people.

      • “Nobody cares what the real breakdown of this is when you consider what is technically a tax and what is technically a charge.”

        Ridiculous generalisation.

        Just ask HMRC if they care if a company is misrepresenting hidden charges and claiming they are Government taxes.

        • It’s not a ridiculous generalisation – most points collectors readers here I bet don’t care about terminology – they just want to know what’s coming out of their wallet. As Rob says time and again the comments section her represents a small fraction of readership.

        • Jonah – actually to say nobody cares is a ridiculous generalisation.

          It’s factually incorrect to say nobody cares, plain and simple.

          Clearly people do care, otherwise you wouldn’t see comments on here ensuring that the distinction is made between the taxes and surcharges.

          And if you plan redemptions according, it’s perfectly possible to avoid APD, hence surcharges really stand out as the significant portion of the £ coming out of your wallet.

      • Because a) it’s incorrect and b) because it mis-represents what the airlines are doing. The more people who are misled into thinking it’s a tax the less pressure there is to stop them.

      • I agree, knowing the breakdown doesn’t change the amount that needs to be paid. I don’t like paying YQ either, but at least I know what it is, and have ways of minimising it.

        There are some of us who know that “taxes” means “TFCs”, but many do not know the difference. There are even many in the industry; professionals, like airline employees and travel agents who don’t know the difference, and really, really should.

        If the breakdown doesn’t bother you, fair enough. If a large “tax” makes you question what you’re paying, then understanding the distinction really does help.

  11. Catalan says:

    Well someone’s got to pay for those new ‘half-a-door’ suites!

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