Even though it agreed to be acquired by Alaska Airlines, pending regulatory approval, Virgin America is still its own airline for the time being and continues to compete for customers. It released news this morning that it is making several changes to its Elevate loyalty program to make the rewards more attractive to frequent flyers, as well as offering a status match to JetBlue customers with that airline’s Mosaic status.
More Elevate Points
Silver members will now receive 50% bonus points instead of 25% bonus points.
Gold members will now receive 140% bonus points instead of 100% bonus points.
Easier Elite Status
Members can still earn elite status by tracking the amount they spend, but an additional option is available to earn status by completing a fixed number of flights — 15 flights for Silver or 30 flights for Gold. This change is retroactive to January 1, 2016.
Award flights will also count toward elite status (since you didn’t spend anything on them, I assume they will only count when earning status with a fixed number of flights).
Summary of Elevate Program Changes
Note that this chart has a typo in the lower right corner. Earning 12 points per dollar is a 140% bonus as described above, not a 120% bonus.
Status Matches for JetBlue Customers
JetBlue Mosaic members can earn instant Virgin America Elevate Gold status by applying online. You’ll keep the status for three months, but you will need to earn 12,000 status points to keep the status through the end of 2017.
More information about status matches from other airlines, as well as matching to Silver status, is available online. The only news here is that Virgin America is adding JetBlue to an existing program.
I’m not very surprised by Virgin America’s decision to offer more bonus points. These numbers more closely align it with Alaska Airlines, which already offers 50% bonus miles to MVP members and 125% bonus miles to MVP Gold 75K members.
I’m focusing mostly on the lower bonus for Silver/MVP members since that’s double what most airlines offer their bottom tier elites. Virgin is offering a very generous bonus to its Gold members, and 140% is the highest elite bonus that I’m aware of for any U.S. carrier. Keep in mind that Alaska also offers additional up to 75% bonus miles for premium fares, while revenue-based programs like Elevate or the ones operated by United/American/Delta do not — they just track the cost of your ticket.
The offer to earn elite status just by taking some number of flights merely matches what other airlines have done for a long time. Sometimes the most loyal customer is traveling 500 miles round-trip every week. The fact that they’re on short or inexpensive flights doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t deserve recognition. Even if that customer is delivering less revenue, it’s possible that this type of travel pattern also makes it more affordable to provide benefits.