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Update: An earlier version of this post detailed the new bonus points-earning level for Elevate Gold at 120%, however, there was a typo in the original Virgin America email to Elevate members. This post has been updated to reflect the actual Elevate Gold bonus level of 140%.

Alaska Airlines recently announced it was acquiring Virgin America, and now Virgin just shared the news that it’s making new improvements to its Elevate program. The new changes make it easier for Elevate members to maintain their status with the airline by allowing reward flights to count toward elite status, among other positive changes.

In an email sent to Elevate status members today, Virgin America announced that it was making “some changes to the Elevate program.” With that kind of wording from an airline, impending changes usually mean bad news for flyers. However, these updates to the Elevate program appear to be in favor of the frequent flyer.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.35.53 AM
Changes to Elevate Silver.

As you can see, the carrier has changed both the required amount to qualify for Silver and the bonus once you have Silver status. Instead of requiring 20,000 status credits at 5 credits per dollar, you now have to earn 20,000 status credits at 5 per dollar or complete 15 flights. In addition, the bonus points increased from 25% to 50%, or 7.5 points per dollar.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 2.08.16 PM
Changes to Elevate Gold.

Elevate Gold status has also changed. You can still earn 50,000 status credits to qualify, or you can choose to complete 30 flights to get Elevate Gold status, instead. In addition, the bonus points has increased from 100% to 140%, or 12 points per dollar.

In addition to the new ways to qualify and additional bonus points when you have status, Virgin also changed which flights count toward status, again in favor of the flyer. Now, all award flights will be counted toward achieving status. With these new changes, any flights taken since January 1, 2016 will count toward qualification.

With the news that Alaska Airlines beat out JetBlue to acquire Virgin America, there’s been some visible competition between the latter two carriers, with each trying to gain the business of the opposing airline’s customers. First, JetBlue announced that it was giving away 500 free flights to “JetBlue virgins” in California and New York. And now, with Virgin’s Elevate program updates, the carrier is expanding its Gold status match to include JetBlue Mosaic members.

Reward flights now count toward elite status with Virgin America.

Virgin also addressed the issue regarding the future of its Elevate program at the end of the email:

Please be assured that there will be no changes to the program during the next several months — and potentially until the end of the year, following the recent announcement that Alaska Airlines will acquire Virgin America.

Bottom Line

When an airline announces changes or “improvements” to its loyalty programs, it’s usually bad news for frequent flyers. However, with these new changes to Virgin America’s Elevate program, it’s become much easier for frequent flyers to qualify for and maintain their status. In fact, Virgin is now the only US-based airline that allows award flights to count toward elite status qualification.

While it’s not clear what will happen to the Elevate program as the merger with Alaska Airlines draws nearer, there is a good opportunity to take advantage of these positive changes now, before any major adjustments are made.

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