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Virgin Atlantic scraps Sao Paulo flights and offers 10,000 miles for PayPal bookings

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Virgin Atlantic has scrapped its new Sao Paulo route before it even took its first flight.

This was to be Virgin’s first route into South America.  It was going up against British Airways and LATAM, who both offer direct services from Heathrow.  Virgin Atlantic put a lot of work in pre-launch, including a codeshare deal with GOL to offered onward connections and a full range of Virgin Holidays packages.

The route was originally announced in March 2019, with plans to launch a daily service from 29th March 2020.  We had already had our invitation to join Sir Richard Branson on the inaugural flight.

In early March, the route was delayed due to coronavirus concerns.  A new launch date was set for October.

Six weeks is a long time in the airline world at the moment, however.

The Virgin Atlantic Sao Paulo website page here now says:

In response to the rapid acceleration and severe impact of Covid-19, we are continually reviewing our flying programme and as a result, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to withdraw our London Heathrow to Sao Paulo service which was due to launch on 6th October 2020.  For anyone that has booked a flight to Sao Paulo we will be in contact about rebooking and cancellation options.

The airline has now clearly decided that it makes no sense to launch without the ability to build up ticket sales for a few months beforehand.

What is interesting is that the route has been cancelled entirely.  There has been no attempt to try to push it forward another six months.  This is despite the fact that, if the United States decides to restrict tourism for a substantial period, Virgin Atlantic will need to utilise its aircraft elsewhere.  As this was to be a daily service, it frees up two Boeing 787 aircraft for other duties.

Virgin Atlantic offering 5,000 bonus miles for booking with PayPal

A month ago, when Virgin Atlantic announced details of its plan to extend Flying Club status, it added an extra tweak for new bookers.

You would receive 2,500 bonus Virgin Flying Club miles for each Virgin Atlantic flight sector (eg one-way flight) booked before 30th April for travel by 31st March 2021.

I value a Virgin Flying Club mile at 1p.  This means that you will receive £50-worth of miles (5,000 miles) for each return flight you book.  On a cheap return Economy flight this is an attractive extra return, especially as it is on top of your standard miles.

Very quietly, Virgin Atlantic has recently expanded this offer.

Your reward is doubled if you choose to pay by PayPal.  

Buying a Virgin Atlantic flight via PayPal means that you would receive 5,000 bonus Virgin Flying Club miles for each Virgin Atlantic flight sector (eg one-way flight).  Again, you need to book by 30th April for travel by 31st March 2021.

This means you get 10,000 miles for a return flight.  I would value these at £100 which is an exceptional return on a cheap trip.  This is, of course, on top of the standard miles you would earn from the flight itself.

Why is Virgin Atlantic doing this?

My best guess is that PayPal is handing over your money to the airline immediately.  We know that the credit card companies have started sitting on direct Virgin Atlantic ticket payments because they are concerned about their exposure if the airline fails.

The problem for you is that you are giving up your Section 75 protection if you use PayPal.  PayPal DOES have its own compensation scheme and you should be repaid but it operates on a goodwill basis.  That said, this is no different to paying with a debit card or charge card where you are also reliant on the goodwill of the issuer’s dispute scheme.

Full details of both of the 10,000 miles offer can be found on this page of the Flying Club website.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (February 2023)

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

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  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 (65)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Mikeact says:

    Just noticed your Tweet a little earlier which I guess many on here would not have seen.

    So , Virgin have been told to go back to the drawing board for their request for £500 million…..sounds a bit of a tough one…maybe.

  • Baji Nahid says:

    I wonder if im eligible for flights i booked through an OTA that is ticketed by virgin.

    • Baji Nahid says:

      What i mean by this is I wonder if I am eligible for the 5000 bonus miles sorry*

  • Andy says:

    You’d be mad to use PayPal as you will lose Section 75 protection with your credit card.

  • Cal says:

    To me, Sao Paulo always felt like an odd decision anyway, especially after Delta bought LATAM. American is getting closer to GOL which is who Virgin where going to partner with for domestic connections. If anything it showcases that maybe Virgin and Delta aren’t as closely linked as I would have thought.

    If there is going to be less demand or just general issues with the USA does anyone think we might see the return of Tokyo (might be good timing for Olympics next year) or some Candian routes? Montreal for example isn’t served by Westjet, and Air Transat may or may not disappear into Air Canada so could be an opening there.

  • Tom says:

    Hi guys, I’ve been reading for a while but this is my first post! Any ideas if Paypal Credit would be covered under section 75 as a way around this?

    • Charlieface says:

      Is it attached directly to your account? Yes that probably would work, almost any kind of loan agreement is included for S75

    • Lucy says:

      My understanding is that PayPal Credit transactions are covered as the Consumer Credit Act applies to the credit agreement you take when you sign up. I’m currently in the process of testing this out though, as Gulf Air cancelled my flights to India and the company that I booked them through are ignoring any attempts to contact them to try get a refund. It was 185 days since the purchase when I submitted my claim but the 180 days shouldn’t apply with a section 75 claim. It’s very hard to establish how to make a section 75 claim through PayPal, so at present I’m trying to do it via their dispute centre but there’s no specific option to mark it as a Section 75 claim, and it 2 weeks since I submitted it but no response.

  • Help please says:

    Virgin cancelled my LAX-LHR on 29 April and are utterly unresponsive (hotline, Twitter, whatsapp). Any advice on how to get through to them/get me to rebook on their next available service?

    • J says:

      Keep trying on the phone until you can speak to someone. They will happily rebook you on their next service when ever that is. You also have the right to be rebooked with another carrier still operating as I assume you want to travel as soon as possible.

    • J says:

      Sorry didn’t read the date – what is the schedule for then, if there’s no VS flight on that date ask to be rebooked with American, BA etc.

    • Rob says:

      The text message (SMS) service will get you a reply after 2-3 days. Note that when they reply you MUST reply in 60 minutes or your case is closed. They work 24 hours a day unfortunately.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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