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Virgin Atlantic adds ability to earn Tier Points on award flights, extends elite status by additional 6 months

Aug. 20, 2020
7 min read
Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350
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Virgin Atlantic is making it easier to earn and maintain elite status in the coronavirus era and beyond. While travelers largely haven’t yet returned to the skies for long-haul travel because of safety concerns and government travel restrictions, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is extending members’ status even further.

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When the coronavirus first made its presence known in the U.K. and around the world entered lockdowns and experienced a downturn in travel, Virgin Atlantic announced that it was extending elite status for all members. At the time, Virgin gave members an extra six months of status, as well as extending voucher expiry.

As of Thursday, the airline has extended that by an additional six months — one year in total. Additionally, it’s unveiled a permanent positive change to the Flying Club program that now allows members to earn elite-qualifying miles on award flights — a first of its kind in the U.K. Let’s dive into Thursday’s announcement.

Earn Tier Points on award flights

As part of its announcement on Thursday, Virgin Atlantic detailed that it’s adding a new way for elite members to requalify for status on flights they are taking. For the first time for a U.K. airline, Virgin is allowing members to earn Tier Points on award flights. In other words, you’ll now earn elite-qualifying Tier Points on flights where you used Flying Club miles to redeem for travel.

Typically, award flights don’t earn Tier Points — only those purchased with cash or those booked using Miles Plus Money. As of Sept. 1, however, members will earn elite-qualifying Tier Points on all bookings with Virgin, regardless of how they were booked. The Tier Points earned can be used towards qualifying for the 1,000 and 400 Tier Point thresholds for Gold and Silver status, respectively.

It’s worth noting that this change doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1. As of that date, all new award bookings, as well as any existing award bookings, will be eligible for the member to earn Tier Points on the flight.

Additionally, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson confirmed to TPG U.K. that at launch, Tier Points can only be earned on Virgin Atlantic redemptions. In other words, if you use your Flying Club miles to redeem for a flight with Virgin’s partner Delta Air Lines, you won’t earn elite-qualifying Tier Points. The redemption has to be for a Virgin Atlantic-operated flight.

You’ll earn Tier Points based on the fare class of your ticket. To simplify the table below, all one-way Upper Class redemptions will earn 100 Tier Points, Premium one-way redemptions will earn 50 Tier Points and economy one-way redemptions will earn 25 Tier Points.

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(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

In other words, you’re earning half of the Tier Points on award flights than you would earn if you were to book with cash in the highest fare class. While that’s less than ideal, it’s still a positive development that Virgin has added to the Flying Club program to make achieving status easier for members.

Virgin Atlantic confirmed that this is a permanent change to the Flying Club program — and a positive one, at that.

Elite status extension

On Thursday, the program also announced that it would be extending members’ elite status and vouchers by an additional six months. In March, Virgin was the first major U.K. carrier to extend elite status. At the time, it was by six months. Thursday’s announcement means that members will retain their status for a total of 12 months.

While the number of Tier Points needed is staying the same — 1,000 for Gold and 400 for Silver — members will get a total of 12 additional months of status.

While Flying Club isn’t sending out new physical membership cards with the new status expiration date, Virgin will offer a digital membership card online and via the airline’s app. The airline said that it’s updating members’ accounts so you can see how many Tier Points you have and the new end date to your membership year.

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Voucher extensions and simplification

In addition to extending status and requalification period for elites, Flying Club is also extending the validity for some elite benefits for those that were valid as of March 13, 2020. For Gold members, that means that the following will be extended for an additional six months — a total of 12 months:

  • Gold member companion reward for Gold status renewal
  • Clubhouse passes for Gold member 1,500 Tier Point reward
  • One cabin upgrade for Gold member 2,000 Tier Point rewards

Additionally, Virgin is simplifying the way by which members can earn and redeem Companion Vouchers, Upgrade Vouchers and Clubhouse Vouchers:

  • Companion Vouchers can now be used with any ticket in any booking class, regardless of status. Gold and Silver members can book their companion into any cabin for zero miles. Red members can book their companion into economy and Premium for zero miles or Upper Class at a 50% discount.
  • Upgrade Vouchers can now be used with any ticket in any booking class for a one-cabin upgrade on a return flight. The only exclusion is for those booked in Economy Light, Virgin’s version of basic economy.
  • Clubhouse Vouchers are valid for one entry to any Clubhouse when booked on a Virgin flight or with Delta, Air France or KLM when flying internationally. Gold members continue to receive two vouchers.

All existing vouchers earned before these changes will take on the new terms.

Lounge access at Heathrow

As TPG U.K. previously reported, Virgin Atlantic is granting its premium and status-holding passengers access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 2. In lieu of access to Virgin’s famed Clubhouse at Heathrow, which remains closed, as does its Terminal 3 home, passengers in Upper Class, as well as those members with Gold elite status and eligible partner customers will have access to the Plaza Premium Lounge.

Interestingly, Virgin Atlantic said in a press release that “Customers of Virgin Atlantic and its partners will also receive a special welcome with an exclusive premium drinks package, which includes Champagne”. Typically, Plaza Premium guests who are granted access with a Priority Pass membership are entitled to a base-level drinks package, which doesn’t include Champagne.

In a press release, Virgin Atlantic said that it’ll return to its home at Terminal 3 when demand at Heathrow grows. At that point, it’s possible that the Clubhouse and Revivals arrivals lounge will reopen.

Bottom line

Overall, these appear to be some positive developments from the Flying Club. By making the permanent change to allow members to earn Tier Points on award flights — albeit at reduced levels — Virgin shows its commitment to its elite members. Additionally, its status extension by one year in total and more simplified vouchers show this.

Virgin Atlantic began its return to service in July, with routes from Heathrow to Hong Kong (HKG), New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX). Since then, the airline has also resumed limited scheduled services to Barbados (BGI), Miami (MIA) and Shanghai (PVG). This autumn, Virgin plans to resume its routes to Atlanta (ATL), Delhi (DEL), Mumbai (BOM), Lagos (LOS), Montego Bay (MBJ), Antigua (ANU), Grenada (GND) and Johannesburg (JNB).

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images