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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)

  • 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.

        • Polly says:

          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.

    • TripRep says:

      BA to Virgin

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

      “Hold my beer”

  • JAXBA says:

    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.

      • shd says:

        > 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.

      • TripRep says:

        “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.

        • Jonah says:

          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.

        • TripRep says:

          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.

      • Matt says:

        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.

      • JAXBA says:

        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.

  • Catalan says:

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

  • Alex says:

    Yep I noticed that, just as I am looking to make a booking, anything to do with them announcing a huge loss? Very suspicious

  • Freddy says:

    Don’t understand why virgin weren’t approached to clarify in order to complete the article.

  • TigerTanaka says:

    Interesting story just like the Amex Platinum insurance “change” last week.

    However, HFP is now a very grown up website and should surely be contacting Virgin/Amex before publication to give them the opportunity to explain why things have changed. Speculation is fine but we just end up with 100s of comments/opinions, a few more data points and no one knows why things have happened.

    • Alex Sm says:

      I’m sure Virgin will be happy to provide a well-crafted quote with lots of corporate comms speak – similar to those they supplied to Rob for the New York flight competition dressed as survey (or vice versa)

  • Matt B says:

    Yep I’m one of those who boosted an upcoming flight last weekend. I’ll be getting a refund ASAP.

  • Alan says:

    I paid £638 recently for a VS UC redemption to the USA from Manchester and just assumed that was the standard taxes/fees/carrier surcharge that they charged! I paid £525.97 in 2017 on a at trip.

    What did VS have to say? I’m wondering if they’re mistakenly forgetting to charge it in DL redemptions rather than charging something extra on their own!

    • Alan says:

      PS just checked ITA for my booking and DL about £120 cheaper than VS, however this is due to underlying fare difference. Carrier surcharge showing as £500 on both.