Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.

  • JJ1 says:

    We just travelled one way Virgin LA to LHR. Base Fare
    USD 0.00
    Carrier-imposed Surcharge (YQ)
    GBP 522.10
    United States – Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee (AY)
    GBP 4.20
    United States – Transportation Tax (US)
    GBP 14.70
    Total Amount
    GBP 541.00each
    Payment Breakdown
    Total Credit Card Amount:
    GBP 1082.00 for 2 one ways. It’s bonkers!

    • Ian says:

      It may be bonkers, but it’s good business. Whilst there are people like you (and me, and everyone else here) willing to pay these charges, they’ll continue to impose them. The only way to change it is for everyone to vote with their feet and stop collecting Avios.

      • lumma says:

        Considering the price of a one way transatlantic cash flight, even in economy, that’s not actually that bad if you needed to take that flight.

        Of course, you could have booked a cash return for less and thrown away the return leg/used it later

    • Harry T says:

      Why didn’t you just use virgin miles on delta and save hundreds of pounds of taxes?

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Louis Vuitton bag £5k. Bonkers!
      Stop flying business then. It’s like people complaining about avocado flavoured skinny matcha latte price in Starbucks is going up.

  • James says:

    Are we starting to see cases where using avios to part pay flights at the ~0.5p per point value becomes attractive to those wishing to chase status?

    • Rob says:

      No. Still smarter to get 0.8p at Sainsburys and pay cash for the flight.

      • James says:

        That’s a good point.

        I don’t travel for business and am not a mega earner, but am sitting on 120k+ points thanks to this site, so while it’s not that glamorous to use them on shopping, it does appear to be better value

        • dougzz99 says:

          Exactly. We almost condition ourselves to see glamour and value in points, but you have to set that aside and really work out what is best value. That could easily be using Nectar for shopping and spending cash on flights.

      • Guy Incognito says:

        How many can you put into Nectar every month? We’re sitting on a large number of points (and will still be collecting a decent amount moving forwards).

        At this point I want to hedge some bets and avoid even further devaluation. I can find some things to buy on Sainsburys / eBay.

        • Charles Martel says:

          50,000 Avios to 80,000; I have about 450k Avios that I need to shift, I’ll probably burn them at Nectar Hotels (white label Rocketmiles) and pay cash for flights, it would take me 18 months+ to get through what I have at Sainsburys alone.

        • Lady London says:

          Or even just store them. You could even make on the turn if things turn out right

  • Alan says:

    Definitely good news re availability – I was quite shocked at the difference when I looked at it recently!

  • James says:

    The Finnair option sounds decent but 154,500 avios return from that image?! Plus £318? How is that decent value, effectively a £1,850 cash price with many EX EU flights to jfk well below that, also awarding tier points and miles?

  • AFKAE says:

    On the general point of availability, I’ve been watching Delhi and there has been quite a lot for the period I wanted Oct-Dec this year.

  • ChrisC says:

    So you’ll save £542 doing HEL-JFK but you’ll be paying 54,500 more avios?

    Not sure if that’s good value use of avios or not.

    But since you’ll need to get to HEL and that will cost you £ 206in economy or £635 in business on AY including checked bags.. For some reason booking via BA costs a lot more. Prices are based on the November dates in your example.

    And as there are no Finnair flights to HEL that would allow you to catch that 12.40 departure you’re going to need a hotel the night before.

    Actually according to google flights there are no ex LON flights on any airline that get you to HEL in time for that departure to JFK so you WILL need to travel the day before and stay in a hotel.

    Yes you could spend even more avios on a reward flight to HEL and save some cash but it makes the maths worse not better.

    Before doing this sort of trip you really need to look at ALL the costs not just one element.

  • AK says:

    Just made a redemption on American Airlines for Etihad in J (LHR-MEL) Shocked that taxes and fees on my one way were only around £250, which seems very reasonable compared to BA!

    • ChrisC says:

      And the bulk of that will be APD – a proper tax – rather than a fake airline one.

    • Babyg says:

      Can you leverage BA Avios to this?

      • Rob says:

        No. Etihad is only an AA partner.

        £250 is purely the APD and the Heathrow taxes, nothing else is added. If you’d booked Dublin to Melbourne it would have been virtually nil.

  • r* says:

    Virgin award availability became an absolute joke, its cost them a couple of premium cash bookings that Id planned to upgrade because they couldnt be bothered to actually have any award availability. Unsuprisingly, it was basically the same price to just book a cash business ticket on a different airline exEU. BA and Virgin are fast becoming not worth bothering with so long as you can exEU.

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