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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 (May 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, one has a bonus of 30,000 points until 6th June 2022):

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (SPECIAL OFFER) 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 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 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.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Virgin Points, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) 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.

  • Concerto says:

    Apparently not. As I understand it you lose the normal protections if you pay this way.

  • Andrew says:

    How many miles if I send cash by special delivery?

    I really don’t like it when a model is built on avoiding bothersome consumer protection.

    For me, and I suspect many others, it wouldn’t matter if I was absolutely confident in both PayPal and Virgin, I’m going to have £lots of BA vouchers to spend between now and May 2021.

  • SammyJ says:

    Is there any additional protection if you use PayPal Credit rather than just cash in your account or a card? I remember reading something about any credit provider being jointly liable under S75, hence why credit cards have the protection, would that apply to a PayPal credit account too?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, I would imagine that falls under the Consumer Credit Act.

      • Mikeact says:

        So I guess paying with PayPal is no better or worse than using a TA…… don’t use either for flights only .
        Try calling either for help the other side of the world when the the airline says, ‘go back to your TA’. Got caught once..never again.

  • Lee says:

    Slightly off topic, but Capital on Tap are proving tough to move forward with my S75 claim against Tap Air Portugal who cancelled my flights and outright won’t refund in cash. I have had to provide proof of booking, cancellation, messaging and emails etc that I have sent to Tap Air Portugal (which I have done) and still don’t know where I am with Capital on Tap. I feel like they don’t believe I can’t get the cash back and am maybe “trying it on” with them. Very frustrating situation and complete opposite with Amex (also re Tap air Portugal) who have already applied the credit. I’ve had a total of 20 flights cancelled and it’s just this return flight I’ve made a S75 claim for (plus one via Amex on another return flight)

    • stevenhp1987 says:

      Section 75 is for individuals only.

      Capital on tap is not available for individuals, but only businesses and sole traders for business related purchases.

      I don’t think they need to provide section 75 cover on this basis.

      You should be able to chargeback though I believe.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        S75 can apply to business transactions, especially for sole traders. The key things you need to determine (on top of the usual things) are whether the lending happened under the Consumer Credit Act and whether there was a separate legal entity to the claimant involved.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        S75 is still applicable to business transactions but seems that the cap is £25k rather than £35k.

        Also hardship for the business needs to be proven rather than an individual.

  • Matt Wilkinson says:

    Rob, if you still value Virgin Flying Club miles at 1p each, does that mean you’re confident we’ll still be able to spend them when this is all over?

    Given Virgin’s financial situation, I’m not sure I’d value their miles so highly at the moment.

    • letBAgonesbe says:

      I guess what he is saying that if you are able to redeem for something it would worth 1p.

      I think they will not survive so for me they worth 0p at the moment.

      • Rob says:

        Exactly. If the airline survives then actually getting 4 x Upper Class for the family to spend my stash should get a lot easier.

        Perhaps I should be more concerned, but given drops in my pension pots, the sharp drop in HFP revenue and a potential trashing of property prices once the market reopens, 2m Virgin miles seems quite small in the scheme of things!

        Or, put another way, Virgin Atlantic pays HFP per year far more than the value of my miles, so if it fails then I have far bigger issues than the points.

        • Alex Crust says:

          is this just ad revenue or through some partnership? I did wonder why you were always so anti-BA…

          • TGLoyalty says:

            You think BA doesn’t pay Robs bills either?

          • Rob says:

            BA pays us considerably more (I am factoring credit cards in to both calculations here, eg treating a BA Amex as a BA sale because it wouldn’t exist if BA went bust).

            To give BA credit, they understand how the world works. We tell the truth, as we see it, about what we find. This means that commercial partners won’t like everything they read about themselves on the site. However, the fact that we are honest and trusted by the readers means that when we recommend something we like, we sell SUBSTANTIAL volumes. No happy clappy site comes anywhere near our numbers.

          • mr_jetlag says:

            Rob’s straight talking probably sells a ton more BAPPs and flights than the fluff blogs so BA come out ahead. No doubt VS gets it as well but the relationship is less mature.

          • Harry T says:

            @Rob
            Great comment. I think trust in a person and their brand is essentially priceless. Everyone knows we can trust your word and judgement far more than The Points Guy shills.

  • letBAgonesbe says:

    This is interesting. At the moment I would especially look for airlines who accepts PayPal. This is because I found PayPal’s buyer protection scheme to be very good and easy to deal with.

    They even have a special website set up where they describe the benefit of booking your flights and holidays with them:

    https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/travel

    • Mikeact says:

      180 day time limit. Useless for a problem on a booking over 6 months out.

      • letBAgonesbe says:

        At the moment I am not booking over 180 days out on an airline where I need to use PayPal
        just in case the airline goes under.

    • Spk says:

      Their website might be fancy, but my experience in claiming chargeback has been dreadful. Most of the times, they usually side with the merchant and offer no explanation why they think our claims are rejected.

      • letBAgonesbe says:

        It would be difficult to side with an airline that went bankrupt and can not offer you the flight you paid for.
        I am sure you agree.

        • Genghis says:

          I’d much prefer to have statutory S75 protection.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Then it’s also difficult for PayPal to get your money back as it’s been withdrawn from the companies PayPal account into their bank account. Putting them into a negative balance is useless as they have no future income to offset it against.

          That’s when PayPal’s protection starts meaning diddly squat.

          I’ve always felt PayPal’s number one aim was to protect themselves from losses.

      • Secret Squirrel says:

        PayPal helped me out once with an ebay claim back. £140 refunded without me doing any chasing. PP has its uses but maybe not for airline tickets!

    • J says:

      You’re the first person I’ve heard of to find PayPal easy to deal with.

      • meta says:

        I have only had positive experiences with PayPal as a buyer and seller. 100% worked in the end in my favour. But it has not been easy. It’s a total faff and you really need to be on the ball and monitor on daily basis what’s going on in Resolution Centre and escalate on time.

    • Roy says:

      That glossy site aside, if you click through to the actual terms and conditions, you’ll see that Paypal Buyer Protection is really designed for Ebay-style transactions. The *only* circumstances you can claim, according to the T&Cs, are “item not received” and “item significantly not as described”. Also, don’t forget the 180-day time limit. Someone should report that page to the ASA, because the “room double booked” situation they are advertising cover for does not appear to be actually be covered.

      https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/ua/buyer-protection?locale.x=en_GB

      @letBAgonesbe I’d be interested to know what sort of claims you’ve had success with. Personally I wouldn’t use Paypal for this kind of transaction due to very limited nature of the scheme (as per the T&Cs). If they happen by some chance to be being more generous right now then the terms require, you can bet that changes when they start to get a deluge of cases…

      • Roy says:

        Ok, looking a bit further, I accept that the terms and conditions do make some references to “services”. But the whole policy was clearly designed for physical goods and it’s impossible to really know how to interpret it. The whole thing is such a mess that I still wouldn’t trust it for anything other than physical goods.

    • Peter K says:

      I’ve found PayPal can be a real bind for sellers if you get unreasonable customers as it often just goes with the customer and doesn’t look at the matter. YMMV.

  • Mikeact says:

    Someone asking £625 for 50k miles on that well known auction site….. must be joking.

    • Peter K says:

      That would be a very dubious buy even at the best of times via a completely legitimate method!

  • Lady London says:

    Sorry about Rhys’s trip !

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

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