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Virgin Atlantic follows British Airways in increasing surcharges – and how to beat them

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Yesterday we ran an article on the additional £100 added to British Airways surcharges on Avios redemptions in Business Class.

Virgin Atlantic has also increased its surcharges. Oddly, Virgin Atlantic is charging the ‘unadjusted’ surcharges quoted by the British Airways website, which are incorrect and which drop sharply once you actually try to pay.

Here’s what I mean.

Virgin Atlantic is now charging a ludicrous £988 return on an Upper Class redemption from Heathrow to New York JFK. £700 of this is Virgin’s ‘carrier surcharge’.

Virgin Atlantic carrier surcharges

British Airways pretends to be charging the same amount:

British Airways carrier surcharges

…. but when you click through to pay it adjusts to the actual figure of ‘only’ £842:

For those not keen to pay such amounts, let me point you towards using Avios for Madrid to New York in Iberia’s Business Class.

You will pay just 68,000 Avios return on off-peak dates plus just £205 of taxes and charges:

If you’ve never been to Helsinki, it may be a good time to check out Finnair’s fantastic new terminal and lounges, as well as taking a look at the city.

You’ll pay just £318 to use your Avios for a Business Class trip to New York on Finnair:

Finnair carrier surcharges

In theory you can also use Avios for low cost New York flights in business class on Aer Lingus, from Manchester, Dublin or Shannon. Availability in business class appears to be zero, however.

Moving away from Avios, you could use Emirates Skywards miles (potentially from American Express Membership Rewards) to fly direct from London to New York on JetBlue in their funky ‘Mint’ business class seat:

Jetblue carrier surcharges

There is some good news from Virgin Atlantic

On the positive side, I had a quiet word with Virgin’s CEO Shai Weiss about Upper Class reward availability – or more exactly, the lack of it on routes except New York – on Tuesday when we were both at the same event.

Shai implied that he is aware of the issue and that changes were coming. Reading between the lines, Virgin Atlantic may be planning to follow British Airways and guarantee a fixed number of reward seats per flight. Let’s see what happens.

In other positive Virgin Atlantic news, the new $4.1 billion Airbus A330-900neo fleet is on track for delivery, starting later this year. We even have tentative dates for the launch party in the Summer. Watch this space …..

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (May 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):

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. Apply here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (to 13th June) 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth 60,000 Virgin Points) – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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 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 (63)

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

  • ChasP says:

    I see Virgins cash price for the same LHR-JFK trip is £2049 (minus £150 in current sale) so I suppose you could still argue that you are getting 1p per point

    • John says:

      You could also argue that if the cash price was £10049 and the redemption co-pay was £8988

  • NigelthePensioner says:

    Copying BA is not a good business strategy!

    • memesweeper says:

      They copy them on pricing. They aim to compete with a superior product.

      Unfortunately for miles collectors, if they copy the YQ element of fares *and* apply it to award bookings rather than only cash ones, they are in danger of eliminating any value in their miles at all (unlike BA, who have short haul and RFS as a way of using Avios without paying ludicrous YQ).

      Right now I don’t want any more Virgin miles, due to surcharges + poor availability, except possibly as a route to redeem on other airlines. Long term, if other miles collectors start to feel the same way, this is very bad for Virgin. I expect the availability to come back eventually, but I’ve never heard of YQ trending down.

      • Alan says:

        Although RFS is useless nowadays unless you live in London as every redemption costs an extra sector – 18k + £70 for a return to Europe is rubbish value.

        • NorthernLass says:

          Can be decent value on long haul CW/CE. You pay the £50 RFS fee for the domestic add on, but MAN-LHR-MAN can be £300 – 400 cash.

          • Alan says:

            Yep although that’s not really RFS, just added tax (that didn’t used to be there before either!)

      • Mark says:

        “They copy them on pricing. They aim to compete with a superior product.”

        I feel I must be missing something here. Our initial experience in VS Upper Class wasn’t a good one, although largely for what are hopefully one-off reasons and they did recognise that.

        However, my major issue is that I don’t like the seat on the A330s and 787s. The A350 seat looks better, if we could get to try it – our return from San Francisco later in the year has changed to a 787.

        At least BA has a plan for refitting aircraft with Club Suite. I’ll be very interested to see what the plan is for UC on the A330neos.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          He said they AIM to compete with a superior product (which is true), he did not that they always succeed 😉

  • Dannyrado says:

    That is lunacy. I am waiting for some points to move over from American Express, then I was booking 3x one way to US. I was uncomfortable paying the high taxes before, but there’s no way now.

    • Charles Martel says:

      I have 130k of MR I wanted to “cash out” to start a 24 month Amex holiday, Avios seemed to be the way to go but Radisson is looking better now. I just need to look at their geographical spread before I commit.

    • Qrfan says:

      I think the miles game is becoming the domain of folks who can afford to pay club cash prices but occasionally will redeem if they have miles annulated and the cash price is higher than normal. The days of paying economy £s and either flying economy or using points and flying business are over. Can’t see ex EU for miles becoming mainstream given ex EU cash prices. As someone said earlier, hopefully this increases availability ex London. I suspect it drastically reduces the audience of this site though!

  • mradey says:

    Agreed. I have been a cash buyer for a while now.

  • James says:

    Airlines are really trying hard to use their own loyalty schemes to cheese customers off and send them to competitors !
    The level of these surcharges are truly offensive.

  • gumshoe says:

    The big benefit of using miles, of course, is flexibility which is arguably more valuable than ever.

    Book With Confidence and FTVs aren’t going to be around forever.

    • Ilou says:

      Agreed but I this is only a topic for those who can afford business cash prices !

      I have a family of 5. I struggled with availability in general but was always able to make it work but paying almost 1k in taxes is insane !

    • Jeff77 says:

      I’m not sure it’s more valuable more than ever. More than eg 2020 or for a lot of 2021?

  • NorthernLass says:

    I’ll soon earn a Virgin 241 voucher (red status only). I’m thinking the best use of it might be to upgrade a cash flight?

    • JC07 says:

      Unfort as I understand it, you will still have to pay the YQ difference between the two cabins..

      • Jonathan says:

        Upgrading from Premium to Upper is still an option, the best one for this scenario !

    • Mark says:

      Upgrading a Premium to UC redemption can be good value, e.g. off-peak Caribbean is 35K return in Premium. The UC taxes and fees were £520 before the recent rounds of increases . No doubt significantly more now, but still potentially far better than any cash fare you’ll find. The real problem is complete lack of availability, which I believe you’d need even for upgrading a cash fare.

  • memesweeper says:

    I’m looking at what Qatar do when they adopt Avios. I believe the have increased YQ in response to rising oil prices, but don’t seem to apply it to award bookings at all, only adding genuine taxes and out-of-their-control charges.

    • Lady London says:

      I have a nasty feeling about that. Unless BA wants to be out of the reward game ( or at least doesn’t really want anyone to buy reward flights) I can’t see them allowing the chasm of value between most uses of avios on BA and uses elsewhere.

      Though the BA Lounge at T3 still has people using it. Which also doesn’t make sense.

      • memesweeper says:

        Someone at BA might ask Qatar to apply YQ to awards as part of this change — which would be a kick in the teeth. Most people won’t redeem outside of flying on BA. They won’t think to transfer to Qatar to avoid YQ and any loss to BA would be negligible.

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