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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 Atlantic miles from UK credit cards

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.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  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)

  • 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.

    • Nick says:

      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

        • Tom says:

          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.

  • 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

    • John says:

      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.

  • 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.

  • Mart says:

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

  • Paul says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • Alex Sm says:

        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…

        • John says:

          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.

      • David says:

        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?