A Virgin Australia customer was recently overcharged by more than $4,000. But, despite acknowledging the error, Virgin initially refused to refund any of the money. This customer claims that an airline representative even threatened to cancel their Velocity Frequent Flyer membership and revoke their Platinum status if they submitted a credit card chargeback claim.
The money has since been refunded, but the incident raises serious questions about Virgin Australia’s internal processes.
Dr Paris recently flew with Virgin Australia from Melbourne to Los Angeles. This member had placed an UpgradeMe Premium Bid for an upgrade to Premium Economy in both directions. The bid amounts were $376 for two passengers on the outbound flight and $420 for both passengers on the return trip. These bids – although they appear low – were subsequently accepted and Dr Paris flew in Premium Economy.
After taking these flights, this member noticed Virgin had charged $5,310 for the upgrades to their credit card. That’s $4,514 more than the advertised amount for the bid.
It took several weeks and multiple attempts to contact Virgin Australia before anyone from the airline responded. When this member did finally receive a response, Virgin acknowledged the overcharging yet refused to provide a refund. This is what Dr Paris was told:
…we appreciate your request for a refund of the overcharged amount, a refund of this will not be forthcoming… I appreciate that you remain disappointed and frustrated with the outcome and apologise once again.
The money was eventually refunded, but it took so long that this member had already accrued credit card interest for the overpayment. Virgin also refunded the credit card interest.
After hearing of this Platinum Velocity member’s plight, many AFF members suggested initiating a credit card chargeback. Dr Paris says that they did not want to because someone from Virgin Australia had threatened to cancel their Velocity Frequent Flyer account if they took this action.
The Velocity Frequent Flyer terms & conditions do allow Velocity to cancel memberships under some circumstances, such as a breach of the family pooling rules. Indeed, some AFF members have been caught out by this in the past. But in this case, we don’t believe Velocity Frequent Flyer would have legal grounds to terminate a customer’s membership just because they had submitted a legitimate credit card chargeback for a charge they never agreed to pay.
Another AFF member claims that Virgin has also previously threatened to terminate their Velocity Frequent Flyer membership over a credit card chargeback.
This debacle has now been resolved. But it’s still unclear why this customer was incorrectly shown such a low price for their upgrade bid in the first place. If you’ve recently bid for an upgrade on Virgin Australia, we recommend checking your credit card statement to ensure you’ve been charged the correct amount. We also recommend taking screenshots of the bid amount you’ve agreed to pay when using the UpgradeMe Premium Bid system.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin Australia stole $4500 from me
Update (2 October 2018): Virgin Australia is now investigating this matter internally. A Virgin Australia spokesperson denies the claim that this member was threatened with membership termination.