Virgin Atlantic Cuts Chauffeur Service

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Well, it looks like another airline is cutting their complimentary chauffeur service for premium passengers…

Virgin Atlantic ending Upper Class chauffeur service

Virgin Atlantic has announced that they’ll be cutting their chauffeur service for Upper Class (business class) passengers.

Upper Class passengers will no longer receive chauffeur service

This change is being made for flight bookings as of July 1, 2020. That means you still have several months to make bookings and take advantage of this benefit, even for flights that include travel after the end date.

In recent years this benefit has only been available to those on full fare and semi flexible Upper Class tickets, so only the most expensive fares have qualified for this. This isn’t a loss for those who have booked discounted or award Upper Class tickets.

Why is Virgin Atlantic making this change?

As Virgin Atlantic describes this change, it’s being done as “the habits of Upper Class customers change and the demand for complimentary ground transfer continues to decrease.”

Virgin Atlantic claims that only 20% of Upper Class passengers have been eligible for complimentary transfers, and of those, fewer than 50% chose to use one. In other words, fewer than 10% of Upper Class customers were choosing to take advantage of this.

If you ask me, nearly 50% of eligible passengers taking advantage of a benefit sounds pretty high!

This also comes as Air France-KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic form a mega transatlantic joint venture.

Virgin Atlantic is part of a new transatlantic joint venture

Virgin Atlantic claims that this change allows them to provide a consistent experience across partners. I guess that’s one way to look at it. 😉

In fairness, perhaps the logic isn’t that off. This has only been available on Virgin Atlantic ticketed reservations for travel on Virgin Atlantic metal.

Given that joint ventures try to create as much metal neutrality as possible, I can see how this could lead to confusion.

I kind of don’t fault Virgin Atlantic?

There’s no doubt Virgin Atlantic has eliminated quite a few of their small competitive advantages over the years. For example, they’ve reduced a lot of the complimentary spa treatments in their lounges. Heck, back in the day Virgin Atlantic offered onboard massages.

Virgin Atlantic has reduced free Clubhouse spa treatments

But this is actually also an area where I think airlines aren’t wrong to cost cut. Realistically those paying the most expensive Upper Class fares are presumably traveling for business, and therefore could expense an airport transfer.

While it seems “cheap” to cut this for those spending $5,000+ on tickets, in reality it’s not something competitors are offering, and I doubt that this is a feature that causes many people to book Virgin Atlantic over competitors.

Bottom line

The era of airlines offering complimentary chauffeur service is largely behind us. Many airlines have cut the service altogether, while others have added major restrictions. Virgin Atlantic was one of the first airlines to offer this service, and they’re now getting rid of it altogether.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic cutting chauffeur service?

(Tip of the hat to Head for Points)

  1. The chauffeur service has been a feature of Upper Class since the launch of the airline in the mid 1980s. While it may not have a huge impact for most passengers, it is sad to see them give up on what, at the time, was a unique service. IIRC, they eve used to offer chauffeur service via motorcycle in London.

  2. The chauffeur service was a one of the differentiators back when VS started their Upper Class service.

    It’s a shame they’re taking it away.

    I use the transfer service with Emirates whenever I fly them; it streamlines the travel experience.

  3. I was surprised when I learned that China Eastern offered chauffeur service and my partner took advantage of it a couple of years back. They didn’t exactly advertise it. Saved us at least $150 as we live in NJ and the flight was out of JFK.

  4. The thing I wonder is that, as it’s restricted to full fare customers, if even 1 in 50 people books away from Virgin as a result of this, it’ll be a loss-making move.

  5. @Michael And unfortunately they recently cut chauffeur service as well either because of cost cut or consistent experience with good old partner Delta lol. It was nice to have free chauffeur service for 380km.

  6. I recall one time (good 20 yrs ago) where I was in Cambridge going to LHR and traffic was particularly bad on the M25, to the point we arrived over an hour late… The driver was in touch with ground crew all along and the flight waited on the tarmac just for me. Needless to say I got the looks from everyone when I boarded the plane….
    Point of the story – the service was a sure way to eliminate the unknown element of freak traffic delays from the equation.
    Don’t think nowadays anyone will wait by the way so I’m ok with it being taken away

  7. Eh? Didn’t know they offered any. Been avoiding them anyway bc of their coffin class configuration. Thankful that’s changing gradually

  8. VS used to need to go above and beyond to compensate for their smaller route network. Now that they are part of the JV, there is no longer any need to do this. Expect more cutbacks as they revert to the mean for AF-KL-DL.

  9. The influence of Delta at Virgin is noticeable, from this, to the website, to the lounge.

    The Virgin lounge now is markedly worse. Whereas even 18 months back, you used to be able to order food from your seat anywhere in the lounge, you no longer can.

    You either have to be seated in the restaurant, or you go this deli counter, where it’s all pre-packaged and, if hot food, kept heated. Not only that, but the deli counter has zero plates, trays etc. so if you want to get food for a couple of people, either all need to go or need to make multiple trips.

    Virgin markets this “improvement” as “ensuring customers get the food they want and reducing mistakes”.

    Virgin have now also eliminated some complimentary treatments and services in the lounge

    The result is that at LHR the BA First lounge is now much more competitive, and the Concorde Room is, gulp, better?!?!

  10. Avi,

    Airlines will never hold up a plane departure because a passenger is running late, no matter who they are or how much they paid (royalty aside, maybe). My guess is that your flight was delayed for some other reason and they just wanted you to feel special.

    At least, not at Heathrow where giving up your take-off slot can meet an indefinite wait. But you highlight the problem with these car services – get stuck in traffic and you can miss your flight.

    The other factor with Heathrow is that there is now a high-speed rail link from Paddington, which takes just 15 minutes and is a fraction of the cost of any car.

  11. Virgin and BA kinda pioneered owning their business class seat intellectual property, and then selling those rights to other airlines. They have both given this up within the past year, meaning they must’ve realized uniqueness is no longer something that makes money.

    Are the overhead bins in VS commercials even accurate? Anyhoo.

    I doubt VS could exist independently today without Delta’s partnership. The scale of the game has gotten so big, and the scale commoditizes the product, so the little creative touches neither work nor are expected by customers.

  12. Who will be the first to stop offering complimentary alcohol? On the grounds Of corporate speak that some of their customers don’t use it blah blah bla.

  13. To be clear this does mean the closure of the Drive Through Check In and people can still use taxis and private cars to access it.

  14. Frederick,

    There are a few Aran airlines that serve no alcohol in Business Class, and United stopped free alco in Coach a long time ago. But that is a hard pass for me.

  15. The Upper Class Wing remains open as normal, no need to book but easy to drive past the entrance. Sorry to see the end of CDC, only used it once but tend to book Tristar (Addison Lee) direct these days.

  16. Uber killed the need for this service. Getting a car to the airport used to be a headache – now its generally much easier.

  17. They day we moved to Australia we had one car for the 4 of us and another for our luggage!! flying EK MAN to BNE. Those were the days

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