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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 (June 2022)

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 Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

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

Virgin Rewards credit card

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 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two 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.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of 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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits 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.

  • Sam G says:

    Note though that PayPal protection is for 180 days from *the date of payment* only. I have a KLM flight cancelled that I used PayPal for and they refused to open a dispute. So if you’re booking for travel later than then then do not use PayPal.

    Attempting a chargeback against PayPal will result in them taking action against you (blacklisting etc) so not a recommended approach. Best just to stick with using a credit card

    • Lady London says:

      That’s a very good point. On a lot of websites when you click to pay with MasterCard, Visa etc you end up paying with PayPal and there’s no way round it because PayPal has got that site’s business.

      The.n all PayPal’s unstated policies come into play like refusing certain cards (yes PayPal will obey a merchants preference not to accept certain cards). Or my favourite that websites haven’t always told you about – Paypal without ensuring the site has made you aware – and without asking you to confirm – can decide to override your shipping address and deliver to the paying card’s billing address instead.

      Not funny when you ordered a massive lawnmower from a website in country 1, to be delivered to country 2, and only when the website sends the combined confirmation and shipment note, do you find that PayPal has overridden your shipping address, the website did not ask you to confirm, and now your lawnmower has already been shipped to your billing address in country 3 instead.

      That took me 3 days to sort out two weeks ago. I couldn’t believe the website was so badly set up. While the lawnmower was on its way back I tested the ordering process again on the website and yes PayPal was overriding the shipment address. Neither PayPal nor the website showed this during the order process.

      Over the years I’ve found when PayPal is used there are always hidden conditions and problems. They seem very arbitrary in resolving eBay disputes as well. Personally I wouldn’t put any large payment or transfer through them if there was any other way as you’re not dealing with anyone that has any universal standards.

  • Dubious says:

    I would expect Brazil’s approach to COVD-19 will result in it being seen as a risk over creating 2nd and 3rd infection waves to countries like the UK once they’ve got through their 1st wave.
    I suspect passenger demand will be servery restricted on this basis alone for many months.

  • Catalan says:

    This does not look good for the future of Virgin Atlantic, Nor for my Flying Club miles.

    • Lady London says:

      Hum. Having a lot of Virgin Miles right now means you’d probably ‘stick’.

      Ron’s right about the contextual things also going wrong like pension values, house price etc. With a bit of luck they’ll all be cyclical as usual. What we have to identify is whether there is a fundamental shift and in what, and its extent so as to take decisions going forward.

      Having a lot of Virgin miles right now is a bit like if you owe your bank £1m or so and you can’t repay then you have a problem. But if you owe the bank £20 million or so then it’s the bank’s problem. So with large Virgin balances you might as well stick it out and see what happens.

  • Jonathan says:

    I had a problem with a paypal purchase and their support was woeful at best. No useful telephone chat, all based on email messaging. The third party made a token £10 refund on an £800 order and PayPal we’re happy that was a sufficient refund despite evidence and 3rd parties admission I never received the complete order. I disputed the charge through Amex who duly refunded me in full so I actually made £10 but it took about 5 months to fully get resolved. I will never make large purchases through PayPal again as their protection is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    • Ralph says:

      Agreed! PayPal’s so called ‘Buyer Protection’ is totally useless and they are impossible to deal with. It is, as Rob says, offered on a goodwill basis rather than a statutory one like s75 and they do everything to avoid paying. Buying a VS ticket for the extra miles/points in a scheme that may have its own issues and giving up s75 protection seems madness. Note FT article re govt rejecting Virgin’s initial bailout request.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    Rob, did you manage to get a refund for a reward booking via the Virgin text service? My flights for May have been axed by Delta, but my first message has been met by the ‘contact us within 72hrs of your flight’ brush-off.

    • Rob says:

      I did but I texted within 72 hours.

      I only got a reply (apart from the immediate ‘thanks for texting’ autoresponse) AFTER the flight would have departed but that wasn’t a problem.

      I now have VS miles back, Avios back and BA cash back. Just awaiting my VS money – in 100 days …. – and a 241 that has gone walkabout.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    I would think long and hard before using PayPal.

  • Simon Barlow says:

    Morning all. We have flights from Sao Paolo to London booked using Virgin airmiles. Does anyone know what will happen – will they just cancel and refund the points or will they be obliged to fly us back from Sao Paolo on another carrier? TIA.

    Also, as a back up plan I have booked a reward flight back from Sao Paolo with BA. The taxes when quoting the flight are £43, but when i went through and booked the flight these had jumped to £230 per person. I assume this is an IT error and I will be able to get them reduced and refunded when the current call volumes decrease?

    • Rhys says:

      You should be given the choice of a refund or rerouting, in accordance with EU261.

    • Michael C says:

      Simon, BA DO seem to be “adding” these “surcharges” from Brazil now – I came across them when looking at a GRU-LHR for December. Pretty sure I read that another poster rang BA and was told that the charges were correct.

      • Simon says:

        Thanks. Shame but if we’re lucky we will be picked up by the virgin solution and I can drop the BA flights.

  • Vikki Schofield says:

    Surely if you pay via PayPal and the payment is via your credit card, then you would still get the protection?

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      No, this is well tested.

      In this case its PayPal you are paying with your credit card, not the airline and so you have broken s.75

    • Youllnever says:

      No, because S75 only protects you if the payment is directly between you and the merchant. I’ve heard of horror stories from people that lost S75 protection because they paid through services like PayPal.

    • Rob says:

      No. You are paying PayPal, PayOal pays the airline. You have no contract with the airline.

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