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Virgin Upper and A Free Ride

Virgin Atlantic (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

In a recent circular from Virgin Atlantic, it comes to light that, though everyone can still use the (excellent) Upper Class Wing at London's Heathrow Airport, not everyone can use the free car service to get you either to and/ or from the airport. Use of the Upper Class Wing only applies, of course, if you are travelling Upper Class at one price or the other and it is also important to remember that you must tell Virgin Atlantic that you wish to use the Upper Class Wing, beforehand; you cannot just turn up and demand entry.

What has changed? If you have paid one of the full Upper Class fares, then your free ride to and from the airport, is included. If you have paid a heavily discounted fare, it isn't. So, if you are flying to, say Los Angeles and have paid £5,866.61 or more - you get a free ride. If you paid £4689.61 or £2,529.61 you don't. These latter two fares are based on an "I" or "Z" class fare (using 15MAR back 27MAR - actual fare at today's date). So, unless your ride to and or from the airport is going to cost you more than £1,177......

If you have booked one of these non-ride-inclusive fares, then you will be entitled to a ride with Addison-Lee at a "special Virgin fare" . What this fare is, though, no one knows as there is no detail about the actual fares on either the Virgin or the Addison Lee website.

This is very odd. We live, now, in the age of Uber, Hailo and others. An age where you can book a ride at a rate that is instantly visible. There is no longer any need to have to "send a request" or an email and then wait for a sales rep or worse, to call you back and give you a sales talk before coming up with a price that one accepts, just to get rid of the caller. It would appear that Addison Lee, for reasons best known to themselves, think that offering clean cars and great service are still sexy as is (according to them) chuntering around the Capital in 7-seaters that are about as exciting as watching paint dry. As we all know, no account was ever lost on price or won on service.

Uber offer a range of car types. (Though perhaps Uber should change their car types to "Everyday", "Middle Manager" and "Super-Sexy") but more importantly, Uber show you, up front, what it is going to cost - this is something that makes the offer by Virgin of some sort of "special rate" about as tantalising as the prospect of a wet winter weekend in Wigan.

One cannot blame Virgin for dropping the free ride on the lower Upper Class fares. The cost of a chauffeur driven car is not insubstantial. That said, it is very strange that no mention of what the "Virgin Special Rates" that one can use to book a ride, is made either by the airline or by the firm that actions the airport rides.

That, in itself, is just so last century.

Ride-hiring technology has changed. The attitude and approach of the Private Hire industry has not. They are still looking at each journey as a profit center, rather than regarding a series of end-on-end journeys as being a profit center. Traditional Private Hire operators still expect to be able to bury prices and rely on offers of "great service". They believe that "technology" is something to be used to tell any given client that their ride is going to be, errr..... 20 minutes late, rather than something to attract clients in the first place.

All this begs the question - Why doesn't Virgin simply offer a free Uber credit?

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