UPDATE: it has been confirmed that Virgin Trains East Coast will happily credit any missing points caused by people booking on the wrong site. As usual we'll be monitoring Twitter to see if anyone has any issues.
We've already written about the triple points Nectar promotion, however for those who've heard of the promotion direct through Nectar (either by direct email, online or through their app) there's a chance that people will earn zero points rather than triple points.
Nectar are encouraging everyone to go via virgintrains.com rather than pointing out that you need to book on virgintrainseastcoast.com in order to earn points on journeys on the East Coast. It says in the small print "The triple points promotion runs on virgintrains.com (Virgin Trains East Coast journeys will be automatically transferred to virgintrainseastcoast.com to complete the booking)". So those that aren't aware that you can't earn points for East Coast bookings on the West Coast site are relying on the West Coast (the one simply branded 'Virgin Trains') to redirect them.
However, there's a few issues with the redirect meaning that it doesn't work all the time and will leave you on the West Coast site meaning you'd earn a grand total of zero points for an East Coast booking. Sweet!
- If you book a journey that involves a connection to a station not served by Virgin Trains East Coast you will not get redirected and will remain on the Virgin Trains (West Coast) site. For example I frequently book London to Heworth (which is just London to Newcastle with a short local connection) but the West Coast site does not recognise it as an East Coast journey so does not redirect. This will earn zero points despite the T&Cs stating "All journeys where a customer travels on a Virgin Trains along the West Coast Mainline or East Coast Mainline (whether for the whole journey of just part of it) are eligible for Nectar points."
- Some routes that only have a limited Virgin Trains East Coast service (such as Glasgow Central to Newcastle) also don't trigger the redirect so will also earn zero points.
- Those who decide to book multiple journeys in one go and have a mixture of East Coast and West Coast booking in their basket will only earn points on the ones on the site they actually booked on.
The idea of the redirect is (understandably) people thought that the Virgin Trains website covered both East and West Coast (more so now as Virgin Trains East Coast have dropped the 'East Coast' part from their logo and on board announcements) but if you book East Coast journeys on the West Coast website you don't earn points and you don't have access to the seat selector. The redirect is meant as a seamless way to transfer people to the right place but as noted it has its limitations.
What should Nectar do?
In the past they have listed these promotions separately, one for the West Coast and the other for the East Coast. They need to make it clear on their site which link is for West Coast and which link is for East Coast rather than only supplying the West Coast link and hoping the redirect will work. The redirect should only be used as a way to catch confused customers rather than it being relied on as part of a promotion.
In the long run it makes sense that the Virgin Trains sites should be interchangeable, whichever one you book on should give points. As mentioned many times FirstGroup gives Nectar points on all rail travel not just their own services. This is a much more customer friendly approach.
What has been done already?
When I was drafting this article yesterday there was another issue with the redirect, this was the biggest one, but it appears that Virgin Trains have rectified it. The issue affected London - Edinburgh which is primarily a Virgin Trains East Coast route but has a limited number of West Coast services. Originally that journey did not redirect, now when you search that route you're given the option to redirect or remain on the West Coast site. Although the biggest issue has already been resolved the reasons listed above still apple.
What should you do?
We believe Nectar is a poor scheme and we advise you to remove it from your Virgin Trains East Coast profile as they are using the number of people signed up to Nectar as proof of its popularity. If you still want to earn Nectar points as you'd rather have something for nothing we recommend booking via a FirstGroup website as they give points on all rail travel regardless of route or operator. More info in our main article.