Insult to injury. About two years ago, I wrote Virgin’s Not So Generous Frequent Flyer Program, covering how hard it was to find available mileage award seats through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program. Tonight, I’m struggling to understand how those “free” tickets cost $350 in fees.
I just priced a roundtrip economy ticket from Los Angeles to London: $687 for the ticket, plus $162 in additional fees, for a total of $859.
That’s a lot in fees, almost 1/4 of the core ticket price. What are the fees for? The “Fare Breakdown” link offered in association with the quote broke down nothing, simply saying: “USD 161.83 Taxes & fees.”
Poking around the site, I managed to find a FAQ page that says this:
Can you tell me more about fare taxes and charges?
You can find our policy on fares, taxes, fees and charges by viewing Article 4 of our Conditions of Carriage.
Don’t get excited. That article 4 provides no breakdown:
Applicable taxes, fees and charges imposed by government or other authority, or by the operator of an airport, shall be payable by you. When you purchase your Ticket, you will be advised of taxes, fees and charges not included in the fare, most of which will normally be shown separately on the Ticket.
To me, a breakdown is a breakdown. Who exactly is getting what amount of these fees? Looking at the US specials page, it suggests there’s a number of them:
All passengers must pay the applicable airport taxes, air passenger duties and the September 11th security charges of approximately $250.00.
The above advertised fares from Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington DC include the addition of a $111, one way ($222 round trip) air carrier security and fuel surcharge.
OK, who gets what. And more important, how can those fees go up when you’re using mileage?
Same ticket, this time using 40,000 miles with Virgin for what you’d assume was a free ticket. OK, so the mileage page does have a little note saying:
*Flying Club reward flights are free in terms of fare, however applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees are payable and this is advised at the time of availability which can be found in the booking engine or via the contact centre when booking your flight.
Still, you wouldn’t think the fees would be that much. You certainly wouldn’t think the fees would be more than if you actually bought a ticket. But they are. That mileage ticket comes with “taxes, fees, charges & surcharges” of $347.13. That’s more than DOUBLE the fees if you just bought the ticket.
So how’s that work, Virgin? How do those fees go up so much more than if I bought a ticket? I’d really love to know.