Virgin Money

Mistake or madness? Virgin adds £200+ to USA Upper Class 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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  1. 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!

    • 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.

  2. Matthew says:

    Vote with your feet. I never fly long haul with airlines that charge crazy YQ. Only ever fly BA as RFS and done one UC VS flight ex HKG. The rest are with airlines like SQ with Krisflyer, CX with AA miles or Etihad via AA miles (no YQ) which offers way better value than Avios even with 2 for 1 voucher.

  3. Mark Roscoe says:

    I now have enough miles for an upper class reward flight from Man to Las Vegas. I had always assumed that I could only use Virgin rewards on a Virgin flight, is this correct? If my rewards can be used on Delta, how do I go about making the booking?

    • Virgin website shows Delta options as well as Virgin options.

    • Lady London says:

      And just for info Virgin miles can be used on some other interesting partner airlines.

      Lots of people also are waiting for the expected ability to earn and burn VS miles on KLM and Air France and/or Flying Blue airlines in general. However I will wait till I see this as except for special offers those Airlines seem to require an outageously Hugh number of miles for any redemption flight at all.

  4. Qwerty Bertie says:

    In the relatively short time since I’ve taken an interest in points collecting, I’ve seen enough to put me off the airline side of it almost completely. As a couple we’ve accumulated about 250k avios, 50k virgin, a BA voucher, and we still have a BAPP on which we could spend for a second voucher, and am about halfway to a Virgin voucher on the paid card which is my only non-Amex in the wallet currently.

    In the same time I’ve bought flights for two holidays, both in sales, the latest leading to £400 cashback from Amex Travel who matched the Virgin sale price. Both of which were so well priced that it makes it seem impossible to achieve anywhere near 1p per point on a redemption, factoring in these rip-off charges.

    I feel like a mug, and wished I’d put all my spending on MR cards. I wouldn’t be chasing the Virgin economy voucher anyway, and will do some sums on HH points per £1 on this card but might be looking for a suitable Mastercard replacement. I’ll probably end up sending all the points to Hilton.

    This is the nail in the coffin for a shift I’d been contemplating and slowly coming around to anyway, being disillusioned by all my research on the BAEC site in to possible redemptions. The avios I’ll use no matter what on the holiday coming after our Autumn one this year, and will then seek to empty out the accounts somehow. We won’t pursue the extra BA voucher/will downgrade & hold the BAPP as a blue until voucher used, in case of future enforcement using the one voucher we will use.

    A fair amount of our points have come from stacked spend using the BA shopping portal. As it is something for nothing we’ll still do that, but ironically we will switch to the Virgin equivalent, as we can at least convert those to Hilton.

    We’ll focus on MR collecting for hotels now, perhaps with the occasional ex-UK flight redemption with more reasonable foreign carriers, following me doing more reading/research/learning, opening accounts soon and perhaps sending a few sacrificial points to enable faster transfer later, but otherwise only transferring points if & when, and in the amount needed.

    Farewell rip-off airmiles; welcome free hotel rooms.

    • Doug M says:

      Gaining all those miles without some investigation of the value of them wasn’t your best move. If you want hotel rooms direct your spend towards the SPG card, 3 points £ is very good. If you have flexibility in when you travel then cash is king as I see it. It’s unfair to compare an inflexible sale ticket with a flexible Avios ticket. There are endless articles on here and other sites about lowering taxes by using Iberia and Aer Lingus, although this does mean the risk associated with positioning to Madrid or Dublin. I find RFS redemptions excellent value, and almost all my Avios go via these. I fly to SFO shortly and will earn around 30K Avios from it as a gold, given that’s on a £1200 fare starting in Inverness what sort of value is an Avios likely to have? People talk about getting 2p or 4p or whatever, but I bet anyone with a good stash will sell for 1p if they could.

      In terms of earning from shopping why not look at a cash back site instead of an airline miles one?

      • Qwerty Bertie says:

        There are numerous places on the internet that approximate the value of an avios point at about 1p. The biggest mistake I made was buying in to that BS in good faith.

        I did look in to Marriott vs Hilton early on, and decided that Hilton was the better way to go if aligning myself to one chain for top status. It won on the breakfasts, which really stack up in value as we now do twenty to thirty nights on pleasure, as a family of three, plus I’m now doing another thirty myself on business based on current activity. It was a shame to go with the one that doesn’t currently have a CC available in the UK, but then in August when Marriott shafted platinum card holders by putting them a rung down on status, and people were messed around with the SPG card, it seemed another indication I’d made the right choice.

        I think we spend by card more than the average couple, but certainly nowhere near enough for the better point earning rate of the SPG card/Marriott vs MR/Hilton to beat a hundred or more free breakfasts per year! I also find Hilton easier to make contact & deal with than Marriott for customer service related stuff.

        • Totally agree – took months (even when escalated to CEO level) to finally sort out my Marriott travel package. By comparison I find Hilton CS far easier to deal with & get a decent resolution.

        • KBuffett says:

          I had a shocking experience with Marriott last night. I cancelled a redemption booking on their website, a confirmation window came up confirming that 200,000 points would be added back to my account. I then receive an email confirming my advance purchase booking has been cancelled. I called them to revolve, the first customer service lady put me on hold for 45 mins and hung up on me. I called again and this lady said they can’t do anything about it and when I asked to raise a complaint she also hung up. Approx 2 hours in the phone. Awful customer service

        • Doug M says:

          Valuing an Avios at 1p is not BS, it’s a reasonable valuation, many will consistently get more than 1p. The floor valuation is the .55p you can get using them for hotels.
          I think the point missed by some is that points are just part of a strategy. There are times when points really work well, be it airlines or hotels, and there are times where cash just makes sense. You can’t determine that you have X Avios and therefore your next 2 long haul flights will be on points, that’s very unlikely to work. You have a stash, and you find what you want and compare the points cost with the cash cost. I booked a hotel in Washington on points, then found the cash rate had dropped considerably, and then an Amex Hilton cashback offer appeared and it made sense to cancel the redemption and pay. It’s a game, you try to win.

    • Qwerty, it seems like your point collecting strategy was pretty narrow. We all do this at the start. It’s called learning the ropes. All been there and survived 🙂

    • Alex W says:

      @Qwerty Bertie, be aware the Virgin Shops Away portal is highly unreliable, especially for hotel purchases. They claw back miles for no reason months sometimes years later. Apparently if you get a complimentary upgrade, that’s a change in the booking which disqualifies you for receiving the miles. I find it’s almost always better to use the cash back sites instead of the airline shopping portals.

    • Freddy says:

      On exactly the same boat!

  5. Lsr161 says:

    That’s funny you should bring this up this morning as I bought 2 miles tickets to Miami to go out P/ec and back upper on Thursday and I had an upgrade and the tax was £564. I queried it as it was the the same price with or without the upgrade and the agent said it was the same ! I bought he same ticket in January and paid £417.00. Maybe I should have paid the part of the journey ?? I love virgin but that price hike is a bit excessive and the site kept telling me that you could not redeem miles seats on that route didn’t matter when you were trying to fly in the year so I think they may have a glitch !
    Any thoughts

  6. Hardik Makkar says:

    Good airline but the most terrible reward scheme in the whole world. Highest taxes n lowest availability

  7. Rob – thanks for addressing the significant Miles devaluation. (Because lets call it out for what it is.)

    YQ surcharges on redemptions have been rising over the years with no justification, they cannot link it to > $100 Oil for instance. How much is YQ on a cash fare ?

    I’d appreciate a further in depth look at this poor attempt at a stealth increase and include BA in that aswell.

  8. Lady London says:

    Yes. I call YQ etc. the “Carrier Greed” surcharge.

    • Indeed, redemption flights are fast becoming only worthwhile when cash prices are very high – so still valuable for me in the school holidays. I recently used my “extra” Lloyd’s upgrade voucher for RFS for my sister and me to Vienna at the beginning of December. This week I booked the return leg from Vienna to MAN on EasyJet and for both of us it cost €108, including seat selection and a checked bag. Talk about a different world…

      • Lady London says:

        The problem is that if it only becomes worth spending miles for flights at peak periods then as the supply is limited most miles collectors will lose out.

        The other time miles van be worth having in stock is in case you have to travel at short notice. Airlines seem to really overprice tickets booked at short notice. Even if the plane’s nowhere near full. In this case ( and provided it’s not a peak time flight you need) having air miles available can really save your bacon. Other than that the swingeing Carrier Greed increases in the money they require to let you use thr miles you paid for, for a ticket that British Airways has snuck in recently and now Virgin, leave a really bad taste in the mouth. Loyalty is, for most of us, mostly one way.

        • Doug M says:

          I have no loyalty whatsoever to a series of large corporations. I do what’s best for me. Loyalty to a corporation is a very strange concept.

  9. Just tried a dummy booking for MAN-MCO off peak 70k miles and £608rtn

    Appears the website fails to go to “Next Step” after selecting the dates and direct VS flights you’re interested in.

    i wonder (hope) if they are correcting things?

    “There are no seats found for your search. You might have better luck looking for two one way seats or by changing your dates. #101767A”

    Also try searching UC for LHR-MIA in November I get the following error…

    “This route is not eligible for miles or miles plus money payment.”

    Very bizarre.

    Crawley Towers IT dept busy again?

    • Lsr161 says:

      I had that last week and the guy at virgin said he could see all availability and he could book ! Very strange indeed!

  10. Nick_C says:

    I hadn’t realised that DL redemptions were so much cheaper than VS, and for a far better product

    • Mark Roscoe says:

      Are you using Delta miles or Virgin for the redemption?

    • There are NO taxes if you redeem Virgin miles on Delta flights from the US to Europe (not UK).

      Look at New York to Paris, one way, Delta business class. Vigin wants £5 in taxes.

      The problem is that the Virgin website only has a small number of European countries in it. If you find a seat New York to Zurich on Delta, for example, you can’t book it online because the Virgin website doesn’t recognise Switzerland. You need to call.

  11. Did you ask Virgin before publishing this story ?

    Have they since responded ?

  12. The party is over lads.

  13. YQ-Rip-Off says:

    When I first used my MBNA virgin Atlantic credit card upgrade voucher, on LHR – NYC the taxes & fees were £345. Just checked what is now in premium and they have increased from £447 which I paid last October, to £514.

    Looks like this was a change that virgin meant to make.

    I’ve now stopped focusing on airmiles and mainly concentrate on hotel scheme points where you get real value and don’t normally need to pay anything extra like you do with the rip off taxes and surcharges when flying from the UK

  14. Alex W says:

    Upgrading premium economy tickets to business class using miles is the way forwards, if you don’t need flexible tickets of course. Especially when there is a sale on or e.g
    Amex travel £200 off.

    • YQ-Rip-Off says:

      What have you paid doing it via this route?

      • Alex W says:

        Never done it unfortunately as we have a nipper now. There were some excellent PE fares on BA recently for around £700 return to various destinations, down to £500 with the Amex travel offer. If there’s Avios availability to upgrade it’s an absolute no-brainer. Cheaper price, one third the Avios required AND you earn Avios & TP on the PE ticket.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Are all VS (revenue) premium economy ticket classes eligible for upgrade with miles – same as BA?

      • BA does NOT let you upgrade non-refundable Eco tickets and only lets you upgrade one level, to PE.

        Virgin lets you go Eco to Upper if your ticket qualifies.

      • No. VS doesn’t allow upgrades out of ‘K’ the lowest of the 4 PE cash fare buckets. BA remain better value for PE/WT+ to Business class upgrades; however, even where avios award space actually opens up, the carrier surcharges have pretty much killed any value now.
        I personally can’t really value a one way biz sector at much more than £300-£350 over a decent PE/WT+ cabin.

    • pointsarb says:

      Unless I’m missing something you would still need to pay the difference in taxes though when you upgrade from PE to UC on VS and so defeating the purpose of this work around?!

      • Alex W says:

        I have only upgraded from PE to UC once at the airport and we were charged £50 each one-way.

        • Alex W says:

          Plus the miles, obviously. YQ in upper class is not much more than what you’ve already paid for premium.

      • Depends what taxes are baked into the PE cash fare.

      • Lady London says:

        There is actually no tax différence between PE, J and F. Government tax is same cost for all three of those classes of travel.

        Used to be pretty much the same so far as i could tell for the airline charges that are added, in that there was a slight variation in airline ‘taxes’moving between the classes but not really much.

        However from comments on here over several months now, it appears that British Airways has increased the ‘taxes’ it charges for upgrading from PE to J or J to F, by higher amounts than they should. Since we know the government charges the same tax on a ticket for all these 3 classes. Carrier Greed indeed.

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