Sad news for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class passengers. The airline will be ending its complimentary ground transfer offer starting 1 July. This transfer program is an added service meant to swiftly move eligible Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers to and from the airport.
When flights begin or end at London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports, transfers include a variety of options. These include chauffeur cars, “limobikes”, as well as train tickets for the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services. It should be clear that services are still available – they are just no longer complimentary.
Speaking with Business Traveller, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said the following:
“We are always evaluating our services to ensure they meet the needs of our customers…As the habits of our Upper Class customers change and the demand for complimentary ground transfer continues to decrease, we’ve made the decision to change how we offer this service.”
As we understand it, these services are contracted out to local transportation companies and are available for roughly 30 Virgin Atlantic airports and destinations. Havana (Cuba) and Lagos (Nigeria) are two examples of airports where the service is not offered.
When booking the service, the majority of destinations include up to 75 miles of driving distance to or from the airport. Shanghai (China), Delhi (India), and Cancun (Mexico) are exceptions where the distance is instead limited between 37 and 47 miles. Mumbai stands out as offering more distance at 96 miles.
For transfers to and from London Heathrow, the limobike service is a unique offering that uses a motorcycle:
“Full protective and wet weather clothing is provided, and the helmet allows you speak to the driver and make phone calls. Your Limobike will take you straight to the Upper Class Wing, where our team will take care of the rest.”
For passengers traveling light and would prefer to catch the train, the airline is also capable of arranging for a ticket on the Heathrow Express. The high-speed train service moves travelers to and from London Paddington in only 15 minutes. For passengers out of Gatwick Airport, the Gatwick Express train service is an option as well.
The world of first-class chauffeur service
While Virgin Atlantic is eliminating the service as a complimentary addition for Upper Class ticket holders, there are still a number of airlines that offer a similar service for first-class passengers on a complimentary basis.
This 2018 list may have changed slightly but it offers some idea of what airlines can do for its premium travelers. For example, Emirates has its “Chauffeur-drive” program while Air France has its DriveU service:
“All Air France La Première guests enjoy exclusive attention from the company’s staff and tailor-made services. On departure or arrival at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, the Hertz DriveU service is included at no extra cost in the offer dedicated to customers travelling in the company’s most exclusive cabin.”
Focusing on what customers want
Additional comments from Virgin Atlantic note that the airline is continuing to “invest heavily” in its Upper Class product. The airline says that it is “focusing on what our customers have told us they want.”
“We’ll be introducing eight further A350 aircraft in 2020 and 2021, so that more customers can experience the stunning A350 Upper Class suite and the new Loft area, as well as a brand new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Manchester this summer.”
Would this be a dealbreaker for you? Would it cause you to reconsider your airline choice? Let us know in the comments.