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Virgin Atlantic can be a bit slow to process refunds from flights that it has cancelled (although it doesn’t come close to being as slow as some airlines I could name), but the airline offers a couple of options in place of refunds and in instances where a traveler chooses to cancel a trip that are excellent and well worth highlighting.
A Bit Of Background
Back in November last year, Virgin Atlantic published a number of staggeringly good Upper Class (Business Class) fares that were too tempting to pass up and I ended up booking a couple of speculative trips back home to Los Angeles. One of those trips was scheduled for this month but with the UK in full lockdown and Los Angeles awash with coronavirus and implementing a 10-day quarantine for all arrivals, it would have been irresponsible to go ahead with the trip.
As it happens, and because Virgin Atlantic had changed my original flights at the beginning of the year, I could have requested a full refund but, instead, I chose to make the most of one of the options within Virgin Atlantic’s cancellation policy that anyone with a Virgin Atlantic booking can use, even if it’s the traveler that’s canceling the trip.
Virgin Atlantic’s Cancellation Policy
If Virgin Atlantic cancels your flight, you’re automatically entitled to a full refund of whatever currency you used to pay for the booking as well as any extra fees that you may have paid. If, however, a traveler is the one wishing to cancel a trip or if a traveler doesn’t want a refund for a canceled flight, these are the rules that Virgin Atlantic currently has in place:
For bookings for travel up to 31 December 2021:
- Travelers can make up to two date changes and one name change* free of charge.
- All fare differences will be waived if new travel is completed by 31 March 2021
- For travel completed after 31 March 2021, the following fare differences will apply:
Those are incredibly generous rules. I love the fact that you can give your ticket to someone else without penalty (I’ve always thought that this should be a standard rule and not just an exception for unusual times), and the fact that you can get a credit towards any fare difference if you change your flights to other dates in 2021 is fantastic.
This latter rule is the one that I took full advantage of.
Why & How I Used The Cancellation Policy
A few of you may be wondering why I didn’t just take the refund that was available to me instead of playing around with the cancellation rules, but the reason for my decision was a simple one – I had an Upper Class roundtrip fare booked for non-stop travel between London and Los Angeles that had only cost me £992 ($1,327) and I wanted to make the most of it. I knew that this was a fare that I may not see again so why get it refunded if there was a way to use it economically in the future?
With the pandemic showing no sign of abating (either in the UK or the US), I wasn’t about to consider making another booking for the first half of 2021, so I took a look to see what fares Virgin Atlantic was offering on its London – Los Angeles route for the last quarter of the year.
It turns out that there are quite a few very good Upper Class fares available across a whole range of dates and while none of them are as cheap as the booking I was hoping to change, this is where Virgin’s cancellation policy would come to my rescue.
After I found flights and dates that suited me, I called up Virgin Atlantic to discuss moving my booking. After giving the phone agent my flight reference and having him confirm that my booking qualified for a refund or any other option outlined earlier in this post, I asked him to move my reservation to October of this year.
The new fare came at a cost of £1,398 while my original fare had cost £992 so there was a fare difference of £406 that needed to be covered. Virgin Atlantic’s cancellation policy took care of £350 of that fare difference leaving me with just £56 left to pay.
A few hours later I got confirmation of my new flights from Virgin Atlantic and Award Wallet even sent me an alert to let me know that my flights had changed…quite significantly!
As far as I’m concerned, that’s an excellent outcome.
Yes, I hand to hand over a little bit more cash to move my flights, but I’ve still got a roundtrip Upper Class fare booked for travel between London and Los Angeles for a total of just £1,048 (~$1,400), it’s booked for a time of year that suits me perfectly, and it’s booked for a time of year where it’s very likely that I’ll be able to travel.
It’s worth noting that at the time I booked the original fare, not only was Virgin’s cancellation policy not valid past August 2021, but the great fare that I booked wasn’t available for October 2021 either, so I’ve actually been very fortunate with how things have turned out.
Virgin Atlantic’s current cancellation policy is one of the more generous policies around. For most people who have their trips cancelled by the airline a refund will still probably be the better option (although everyone should check what their rebooking options are just to make sure there aren’t any great deals available). For everyone else, the ability to change a trip’s travel dates into the future with a credit available towards any fare difference and the ability to change the name on a reservation without penalty, are two options whose value shouldn’t be underestimated.