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.)

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. Did you ask Virgin before publishing this story ?

    Have they since responded ?

    • Why would someone ask a service provider for information which they can easily find themselves? Reading is your friend……

    • No, wrote it at 10pm last night as I’m on holiday.

  6. 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 🙂

  7. The party is over lads.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. Lawrence says:

    I’m bamboozled by this whole tax/surcharge thing! I’m assuming the tax is actually imposed by the government and if so why are there differences between airlines? Do airlines get to set the rates themselves? Has anyone ever challenged an airline over the amount of tax charged?

    • The taxes are the same and got vary, the surcharges are set by the airline and they can vary them as they wish. If you look a flight up on ITA Matrix you can see a nice clear breakdown.

    • Taxes are levied by governments, fees by airports, charges/surcharges by airlines. They all get collected together, and are often incorrectly labelled as only “taxes” when that’s just one part of it.

      The surcharges are set by the airline, in the same way they set their other prices, and they appear on a ticket in the same place as the actual taxes and fees… but surcharges are not taxes.

    • Taxes are fixed, by the government. Surcharges are set by the airline and lumped in alongside taxes to make it look like the government is charging it when it’s actually just airline money.

  11. Ben Jones says:

    Delta surcharges have always been around $50 less than Virgins (when booking JFK —> LHR on Virgin’s website). Hence I’ve never flown Virgin, but it’s very odd for them to be devaluing their own redemptions so much vs Delta.

    Also great tip on flying to Europe – hadn’t realised that before!

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