How to get Virgin Atlantic elite status without stepping on a plane

Sep 14, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic’s elite status program has become more powerful over the past few years. Delta Air Lines recently made a large investment in the airline and started offering reciprocal elite status benefits. This means that Virgin Atlantic elite members enjoy benefits when flying on Delta Airlines and vice-versa. In my eyes, this makes Virgin Atlantic elite status significantly more useful for American travelers — especially for those who frequently travel to the U.K.

To sweeten the deal even further, you can earn Virgin Atlantic status relatively easily in the U.S. The airline’s U.S. cobranded credit card lets you earn Tier Points quickly, giving you an easy way to fast-track to elite status even when you’re not flying. Plus, most Delta flights — both international and domestic — earn Tier Points and redeemable Flying Club miles.

Interested in learning more? Here, we’ll discuss the benefits of Virgin Atlantic elite status and show you how to quickly earn it — let’s dive in!

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Virgin Atlantic elite status benefits

Pool table at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

There are two tiers of Virgin Atlantic elite status: Silver and Gold. Each of these tiers have various benefits that can make travel less stressful and more streamlined for frequent flyers. Here’s a quick overview of all benefits included with both status tiers — we’ve broken each tier down by Virgin Atlantic and partner airline benefits.

Virgin Atlantic Silver status benefits

Virgin Atlantic Silver is the airline’s lower status tier. It includes a baseline of benefits that make the airport experience easier. That said, it has limited onboard enhancements — here’s a look:

  • 30% bonus mileage earning: Earn 30% more miles when flying with Virgin Atlantic.
  • Premium check-in: Use the Premium check-in counter regardless of your class of service.
  • Priority boarding: Board with other elite status members ahead of other travelers.
  • Free seat assignment: Select your seat for free in all classes of travel, including Economy Light.
  • Priority baggage: Your bags will be among the first off of the plane when you land.
  • 7% discount with Virgin Holidays: Receive a 7% discount on all vacation packages booked with Virgin Holidays.
  • Bonus miles: Earn 2,000 bonus miles when you requalify for status.

Virgin Atlantic Silver benefits on Delta Air Lines

Flying on Delta Air Lines? This is what you can expect with Virgin Atlantic Silver status:

  • Priority check in: Use the business class check-in area.
  • Priority boarding: Board ahead of other travelers.
  • Priority baggage: Your bags will be among the first off the plane when you land.

Related: How to book cheap Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Gold status benefits

Virgin Atlantic Gold status is far more powerful than Silver. It has a suite of interesting perks that make travel truly luxurious — for example, access to an arrivals lounge at London-Heathrow (LHR). Gold members are entitled to all Silver benefits and the following on Virgin Atlantic flights:

  • 60% bonus mileage earning: Earn 60% more miles when flying with Virgin Atlantic.
  • Upper Class check-in: Use the Upper Class check-in counter regardless of your class of service.
  • Free exit row seat assignment: Free exit row seat selection on Economy Classic fares.
  • Additional baggage: Enjoy an additional piece of cabin and checked luggage on Virgin Atlantic flights.
  • 10% discount with Virgin Holidays: Receive a 10% discount on all vacation packages booked with Virgin Holidays.
  • Clubhouse access: Access Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse lounges when flying with Virgin Atlantic or Delta Air Lines for you and one guest.
  • Discounted spa treatments: Enjoy a complimentary spa treatment and 10% off other treatments at Clubhouse lounges.
  • Arrivals lounge access at Heathrow: Use the Revivals arrivals lounge at Heathrow when flying Virgin Atlantic.

Benefits on Delta Air Lines

Delta A220 seating in Comfort+
Enjoy upgrades to Comfort+ when flying Delta (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Again, Gold tier members can enjoy additional benefits when flying with Delta Air Lines too. These members are entitled to all Silver benefits plus the following when flying with Delta:

  • Additional baggage: Free bags on all Delta flights, up to three when flying.
  • Delta SkyClub access: access Delta Sky Club lounges when your itinerary includes a transatlantic sector to or from the U.K.
  • Delta Comfort+ upgrades: Complimentary space-available access to DL Comfort+ at the gate prior to departure for all regions of travel, excluding Basic Economy fares.

Benefits on Air New Zealand

Virgin Atlantic also partners with Air New Zealand — the flag carrier of New Zealand. These members will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Additional baggage: One additional piece of checked luggage on all flights
  • Priority baggage: Your bags will be among the first off the plane.
  • Business class check-in: Use the business class check-in counter regardless of your class of travel.
  • Air New Zealand lounge access: Access lounges in Sydney, Rarotonga, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Melbourne, Wellington and Queenstown when flying Air New Zealand. You must bring your physical loyalty card for access.

Benefits on Singapore Airlines

Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines are long-time partners. Gold members can enjoy the following benefits when flying with Singapore’s largest airline:

  • Additional baggage: One additional piece of checked luggage up to 20kg on all flights.
  • Business class check-in: Use the business class check-in counter regardless of your class of travel.
  • Priority boarding: Board ahead of other travelers.
  • Priority baggage: Your bags will be among the first off the plane when you land.
  • Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris lounge access: Access SilverKris lounges in Adelaide, Bangkok, Brisbane, Delhi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpar, London Heathrow, Manila, Melbourne, Perth, San Francisco, Sydney and Taipei when flying Singapore Airlines. Likewise, access SilverKris lounges in Singapore (SIN) terminal 1 and 2 when flying business class and KrisFlyer Gold lounges in terminals 2 and 3 when flying economy.

Benefits on Virgin Australia

Finally, Gold tier members have access to a handful of Virgin Australia benefits. Here’s what to expect:

  • Business class check-in: Use the business class check-in counter regardless of your class of travel.
  • Priority boarding: Board ahead of other travelers.
  • Priority baggage: Your bags will be among the first off the plane when you land.
  • Virgin Australia lounge access: Access lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin, Gold Coast, Mackay, Perth and Wellington when flying with Virgin Australia. You must bring your physical loyalty card for access.

Related: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

How to qualify for Virgin Atlantic elite status

You qualify for Virgin Atlantic elite status by earning “Tier Points” by flying and through credit card spend. You’ll qualify for Silver and Gold status by earning 400 and 1,000 Tier Points respectively. These must be earned within a single Upgrade Cycle. This is calculated from the current date of the month, to the first day of the same month in the previous year.

You can maintain your status by earning the same number of Tier Points before the end of the next Upgrade Cycle. If you’re a Gold member and only earn 500 Tier Points, however, you’ll drop to Silver status for the following status year.

Related: How The Points Guy earns his elite status

Should Americans earn Virgin Atlantic status?

Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy
(Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)

Virgin Atlantic is a U.K.- based airline, so Americans won’t get as much use from the benefits as their British counterparts. That said, the benefits on Delta are solid, especially at the Gold level. This tier offers similar benefits to Delta Medallion Silver status on the airline, and is even better for those hoping to access lounges when en route to the U.K.

The standout benefits to me are lounge access and exit row seating on Virgin Atlantic flights. Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse lounges are some of the best in the world, offering excellent food options and a posh atmosphere. Likewise, travelers that spend a lot of time in Virgin Atlantic economy will undoubtedly appreciate extra legroom.

So, should Americans earn Virgin Atlantic elite status? It all depends on your travel habits. If you frequent the U.K. on Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights, I think it’s worth it. You’ll have a better experience on these flights and enjoy an elevated travel experience on domestic Delta flights. On the other hand, travelers that rarely visit the U.K. are better off earning Delta elite status for more applicable benefits.

How to earn Virgin Atlantic elite status quickly

Virgin Atlantic flight VS355 arrives at London Heathrow, carrying the first UK nationals from India
(Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Below, I’ll walk you through all of the ways you can earn Tier Points. Then, I’ll round-out the section with a discussion on how to earn Virgin Atlantic as quickly as possible.

Earning Tier Points when flying with Virgin Atlantic

As you’d expect, you can earn Tier Points when flying on Virgin Atlantic. The number of Tier Points you’ll earn on a flight depends on your fare class. Each fare class earns the same number of Tier Points regardless of the route, so a flight from New York-JFK to London (LHR) would earn the same number of Tier Points as a flight from London to Hong Kong (HKG) in the same fare class.

Here’s a look at how many Tier Points each Virgin Atlantic fare class earns.

Virgin Atlantic Tier Point Earning Chart
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

As you’d expect, the higher the fare class the more Tier Points you earn. Discounted Upper Class tickets — defined as those in the G and Z fare class — earn 100 Tier Points per one-way flight. This means you can earn Silver status by taking just two round-trip ticket — an easy feat for those traveling to the U.K. frequently for work.

Earning Tier Points when flying with airline partners

Likewise, you can earn Tier Points when you fly with Virgin Atlantic’s various airline partners, but it isn’t quite as straightforward. You’ll earn Tier Points based on the length of your flight and fare class. In the case of Delta Air Lines, you’ll earn more Tier Points on flights over 3,000 miles. You can view the exact number of Tier Points you’ll earn with your airline partner on its respective Virgin Atlantic partner page.

Here’s a look at the Delta Air Lines earning chart. You can see that the number of points you’ll earn varies widely from 5 Tier Points to 200 Tier Points per one-way ticket. Flights over 3,000 miles earn significantly more points than shorter flights, with Delta One earning up to 200 Tier Points depending on the booking class.

Delta Air Lines Tier Point Earning Virgin Atlantic
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Related: Where to credit your basic economy flights for maximum returns

Air France’s Tier Point earning chart is a bit more complicated, but still pretty straightforward. In this case, flights over 600 miles earn more Tier Points than shorter flights. You’ll also notice that the redeemable point earning is listed on this chart too.

Air France Tier Point Earning Virgin Atlantic
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Not all airline partners are as generous as Delta and Air France. For example, Virgin Atlantic and Hawaiian Airlines are partners, but it only awards a maximum of 50 Tier Points per flight. Short-haul economy flights aren’t eligible for Tier Point earning either, which is disappointing for those planning to island hop in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines Tier Point Earning Virgin Atlantic
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Earning Tier Points with a U.S. cobranded credit card

For most, the easiest way to earn Tier Points is by spending on the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®. This Bank of America-issued credit card earns redeemable Flying Club miles on all purchases and awards Tier Points when you hit certain spend thresholds.

You will earn 25 tier points per $2,500 in purchases with a maximum of 50 per month. Depending on how you spend, this can be a quick 50 Tier Points every month. Max this out every month, and you’ll earn 600 Tier Points. This immediately qualifies you for Gold status without ever stepping foot on an airplane.

The card has other solid benefits too. It earns 3x miles per dollar spent on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x miles per dollar spent elsewhere, equal to a 3.2% return on spending. This makes the card a solid option for everyday (see: un-bonused) spending if you’re also seeking Tier Points. You’ll also earn a companion pass when you spend at least $25,000 in a single calendar year.

The card currently offers 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 or more in your first 90 days from opening the account. The card has a modest $90 annual fee, which can be largely offset by Tier Point earning and the annual companion pass.

Related: The surprising reasons why 2020 is the year of cobranded travel credit cards

The fastest way to earn Virgin Atlantic elite status

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350-1000 aircraft as seen on final approach arriving and landing at JFK John F. Kennedy International Airport in NYC, New York, USA. The airplane has the registration G-VPOP, the name Mamma Mia, 2x RR Jet engines. Virgin Atlantic Airways VS VIR is a British Airline Carrier connecting New York City to the London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Manchester UK. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

If you want to get Virgin Atlantic elite status as fast as possible, you’ll want to start by applying for a Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard and using it for all of your unbonused spending. Think rent payments, deli runs and dry cleaning — you’ll want to use a card that earns bonus points for dining, grocery and travel purchases. The American Express® Gold Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are good options for those purchase categories.

As discussed in the last section, you can earn 600 Tier Points per year with this card if you spend $5,000 on it per month. This is unrealistic for most, but may be possible for those with high rent, college tuition payments or lots of reimbursable expenses. It will take you six months to earn Silver status this way and a full year to earn Gold status.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07: Delta Air Lines Celebrates the launch of the first passenger flight on the state-of-the-art, experience-rich Airbus A220-100 aircraft at LaGuardia Airport on February 7, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Delta)
(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Delta)

If you’re based in the U.S., you may want to pad your balance by crediting domestic Delta flights to Virgin Atlantic. If you need to travel, you can find low-cost first class tickets on many Delta routes. For example, this flight from Rochester (ROC) to New York-JFK is $107.10 — just $29 more than a Main Cabin economy ticket.

ROC to JFK Delta Pricing
(Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

This flight is booked in the Z fare class and is well under 3,000 miles. You’d earn 20 Tier Points on this ticket which is three times more than the V fare economy ticket. Booking these flights often can quickly accelerate your Tier Point earning, especially when mixed with earning on long-haul flights and cobrand credit card spend.

Review: Delta Air Lines first class from New York to Las Vegas on the Boeing 737-900ER

Bottom line

All in all, Virgin Atlantic elite status can be very easy for Americans to earn. Through a mix of credit card spending and flying, you can earn top-tier Gold status in a matter of months. This status is useful for those who frequently travel to the U.K. and use Delta as their domestic carrier of choice in the U.S. That said, you may want to skip this elite status opportunity if you rarely fly Virgin Atlantic and focus on earning Delta elite status instead.

Feature photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

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