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Virgin America Launches Elite Status Program

by on July 23, 2012 · 34 comments

in Elite Status, Virgin America

Virgin America announced today at the Global Business Travel Association Convention that its Elevate frequent flyer program will now include a two-tier elite status component starting August 8, 2012.

Virgin America’s chart explaining the benefits of its new elite status tiers.

Perks will include:
-Priority check-in, security clearance and boarding
-Points-earning bonuses (25% for Silver, 100% for Gold)
-Free checked bag allowances (1 for Silver, 3 for Gold)
-An expanded advance-purchase upgrade window for First Class (12 hours for Silver, 24 hours for Gold)
-Complimentary space-available upgrades to Main Cabin Select (12 hours for Silver, 24 hours for Gold)
-Complimentary access to newly designated enhanced seat assignments within Main -Cabin (rows 5, 6 & 9 on the A319, and 5,-7 & 9 on the A320), which will be called “Main Cabin Express” (other members will just have to purchase them for $20)
-Enhanced digital/social media rewards (such as earning double points by checking in at airports and other locations through Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare)
-15% discount on Main Cabin tickets (1 per year for Silver, 2 per year for Gold)
-No Elevate points redeposit fee for Gold
-No call center service fee

Elevate members who earn 20,000 Elevate status points ($4,000 in flight purchases) within a calendar year will get Silver status, while those who earn 50,000 status points ($10,000 in flight purchases) in a full calendar year will achieve Elevate Gold status. Elevate status points can be earned on purchased flights with Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. Points earned from the Virgin America Visa Signature card do not count. Travelers earn 5 Elevate points per $1 spent on travel on Virgin America itself, though they earn points based on fare class and the distance of the flight on partners Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic.

The final cherry on top? The Elevate member who earns the most status points between August 8, 2012 and August 7, 2013 will earn a reward of a sub-orbital space flight on Virgin Galactic, which is a $200,000 ticket. 

I’m happy to see Virgin America enhancing it’s loyalty program and some of these perks are pretty valuable, which some are yet to be seen (like the social media bonuses, which are an interesting perk I haven’t seen another airline introduce).

This isn’t a game changer for me, because I still value traditional airline miles and the elite status perks of my American Airlines Executive Platinum and Delta Platinum statuses more than what Virgin America Gold would offer me, but this is a nice way to reward their top customers who not only fly a lot – but spend a lot.

Elevate points are fixed value, so you can redeem them for any flight at about 1.6-2.1 cents apiece. It’s a solid program considering you earn 5 points per dollar spent – plus an additional 3 if you have the Visa Signature card plus up to a 100% elite bonus. In essence you could be getting back 26% or more of your spend if you are a Gold elite credit cardholder. So that $10,000 spent a year to achieve Gold status could mean up to $2,600 back in award flights- not so shabby.

I’ve never flown Virgin America, but most people who do absolutely love it. Feel free to share your experiences or thoughts on their new elite program. If you have any specific questions, we are talking to Virgin America’s loyalty program director tomorrow, so ask away and we will get your questions answered.

My big question to TPG readers is:

Will this new elite program make you move more of your travel to Virgin America?

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  • http://www.jonk.org jonk

    i’m really happy to see VX implement an elite program — they recently started flying my route (SFO-PHL) but as a premier gold on UA, not only do i get (somewhat consistent) upgrade (to F) perks but imho you can’t beat star alliance for international travel (at least out of SFO) and worldwide lounge availability.

    the more their program grows, though, the more i am eyeing them…(if only i flew enough to be in the running for that virgin galactic prize…)

  • Bigr3dbears

    I flew VX in Oct 2011 on JFK-SFO-JFK route in Main Select and my reactions were mixed.

    VX tries to position itself as a cool airline, but it reeks of “low cost carrier” stink.

    Pros: free unlimited food & drink in Main Select, priority boarding, lounge access, more comfortable chairs
    Cons: snappy VX airport workers, Main Select seats are hard to sleep in on trans-continent route, points have a fixed value.

    VX will not be my first choice, but it’s not that bad either.

  • Niebeendend

    Funny, JetBlue also announced an elite program today as well called TrueBlue Mosaic.

    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jetblue-takes-loyalty-to-new-heights-with-introduction-of-trueblue-mosaic-163384496.html

  • PJ

    hmmm isn’t the sign on bonus a bit low ? about $160 dollar worth. The good thing might be it is issued by Barclays which might approve whoever with decent credt.

  • Fly-Guy2234

    It’s still nothing special. There are no free upgrades to first when available… but the bottom line is VA has a vastly superior product compared to the main legacy carriers. It’s just a nicer experience. So on the packed routes like JFK-LAX/SFO It’s impossible for a mid level elite to score an upgrade on United and Delta… so why not fly a better product and get at least a main cabin select upgrade.

  • Jonathan Noel

    I keep reading the phrase “per calendar year” associated with the silver and gold status. Does this mean your status expires at the end of each year, or, when you obtain silver status you are always silver status?

  • Sean

    I like VX. The only route from San Diego is SAN-SFO and I’ve flown it six or seven times. I paid for the upgrade to FC once, similar chair to the Delta 75E. Footrests, decent recline, massage.

    This change is cool, another player in the game, but it’s not affecting my bookings. If they’re cheaper than United on my SF trips I will fly with them. Otherwise I’ll snipe the UA 757s on my route for the slam dunk upgrade with companion.

    Really? Virgin Galactic is only $200k? Hmmm…

  • Googler

    A status match to my V Australia Gold will be great! Although I know I can get the perk from using my V Australia Gold anyway.

  • Gtiger

    I love virgin america, not least because I could upgrade to main cabin select or to first 24 ahead of etd when space was available. Reasonable fees for a meaningful positive upgrade. This new change appears to take that away from all passengers in favor of their newly defined silver and gold elite$$$$. What happens to the rest of us? Wait listing? I hate this.

  • gdstuart

    <>

    Wha? Check again, it’s 1 point per dollar, 3 points if you’re spending those dollars on VA. I have the VA Amex and I get 1.5 pts per dollar (3 pts on VA purchases) and better sign-up bonuses. If you find a 5 pt-per-dollar card with any airline, snap it up and let me know too!

  • Michel

    I’m not sure about Virgin but with the other programs status and qualifying is a yearly endeavor.

  • Eric

    You earn 5 points per dollar spent on fares according to Virgin’s Elevate site: “Earn 5 Points per dollar on your base fare. Get an additional 3 points for every dollar you spend with the Virgin America Visa Card.”

  • Lee

    Is there any agreement on status-sharing with VA? So if you’re gold on VA, will you have any status at all on VX?

  • thepointsguy

    The base earning in Elevate is 5 points per dollar spent on airfare. You get an additional 3 by using the VA Visa Signature card
    http://virginamerica.com/earnpoints.do;jsessionid=A6BD8DECC3E6E3C50743B2B72C4B258D.web02d.sc9

  • thepointsguy

    I’m sure it expires if you don’t retain it each year.

  • thepointsguy

    Agree.. it’s not a huge value sign-up, but could make sense for Virgin America flyers to earn points at a much faster ratio and get the perks

  • thepointsguy

    I guess you’d be giving up the opportunity to earn valuable miles that are good for premium international redemptions. Virgin America does have a partnership with Virgin Atlantic/Australia, but it takes vastly more money spent to get premium awards vs. United or AA.

  • thepointsguy

    If Virgin America had more routes, I’d think of gunning for the VGalactic prize!

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  • Joseph M

    I love to read your review of a trip on Virgin Galactic….. Just Saying…

  • gdstuart

    Not sure where you saw that on the Elevate site, but here’s the text from the link you provided:

    4. Cardmembers approved for the Virgin America Visa Signature or Platinum Card with $49 annual fee will earn three (3) Elevate points for every one dollar ($1) of net purchases of Virgin America tickets or Red in-flight purchases with the credit card account, rounded to the nearest dollar and one (1) Elevate point for every one dollar ($1) of net purchases made everywhere else the account is used, rounded to the nearest dollar. Cardmembers approved for the Virgin America Visa Signature or Platinum Card with no annual fee will receive one (1) Elevate point for every one dollar ($1) of net purchases made everywhere the account is used, rounded to the nearest dollar. Restrictions apply. Please see important information about the Virgin America credit card program in the Terms and Conditions. Convenience Checks do not qualify for points.

    In any event, the dollars I spend on Virgin flights are a tiny proportion (read zero) of my total CC spend, so even the three pts would not sway me. If you can find the language that states five pts per dollar, please provide it in a reply. Looks to me like there’s a conflict in their T’s and C’s. The screen-print you posted in the original post even says “Enjoy 3 Points per $1 on Virgin America purchases
    Earn 1 Point per $1 spent everywhere else”

    Thanks, Geoff

  • Holdenmeister

    Per VA’s website, you get 10,000 status points for spending 25k. That’s not bad.

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  • latvwriter

    Hey Points Guy, quick question. If I’m flying with someone (we booked at the same time) how will the upgrade process work? If I am a Gold Level member, can I pay for an upgrade for me AND my flying partner? Thanks!

  • latvwriter

    I realize I didn’t say “you get 10,00 status points for spending 25k on the Virgin America Credit Card.”

  • http://twitter.com/outericky Outericky

    anyone know if this program will only take into consideration points earned after Aug 8? Or will it take into consideration all of 2012? It mentions that Visa spending for 1 calendar year, but if it starts August, then it’s really only 5 months for 2012…. same with flights…

  • Ciara Beatty

    You only get Status points for flights flown plus 5k or 10K if you spend $25K in a calendar year. All the earning potential mention above is only towards award travel.

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