As much as I LOVE flying Virgin America, I rarely do because my points are somewhat useless and their route network is too small for my likings. However, despite this, my largest grib with Vx has always been their lack of an elite program for their loyal frequent flyers. However, today Vx listened and has announced the launching of their new Virgin America Elevate Elite program.
Virgin America will be launching their new elite program on August 8th and will include three levels. The first will be the typical Elevate that everyone includes the basic status that you and I current have, then Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold. To qualify for silver one must collect 20,000 elevate points in one calendar year or 50,000 for Gold. Points can be earned by flying any of the Virgin Group airlines (Virgin Atlantic, America, Australia) or through the Virgin America Credit Card. Remember though, Virgin America points are earned by dollar spent (5 Points for each dollar spent on airfare), not by miles flown. Partner airline points are earned by a percentage of the base miles flown. Therefore, to earn Silver status one would need to spend $4,000 on Virgin America’s flights or $10,000 for Gold.
Virgin America’s Elevate Benefits are pretty sweet, and really do compare to the bigger guys in the industry. Benefits include bonus points with purchases and free check bags! However, the best benefit that I know most people are after include free upgrades to main cabin select, Virgin America’s “premium” economy seat that includes free premium TV, food, and booze in flight, along with 38” of leg room thanks to being an exit or bulkhead row. Upgrades will process 12-24 hours before departure, depending on status. In addition to free upgrades to Main Cabin Select, Elite flyers will have an earlier upgrade window to first class, allowing them to pay for an upgrade to First from economy 24 hours before departure instead of 6 hours.
Elite status at Virgin comes with all the typical elite bonuses and includes priority check in, boarding and security check. However, another benefit mentioned, but is not elaborated on is Complimentary Main Cabin Express Selection at booking. Currently there is no information on the Virgin America page about what this benefit actually will be, however per the tiny asterisk, it’s a benefit to be launched later this summer. If you ask me, I think it will just be the 1st ½ of the plane reserved as “elite” seats like many other airlines currently do, and then try to charge non-elite flyers to purchase a seat before check-in.
Overall I would say the new VX Elite status is pretty darn good for a Low cost carrier. It is too bad there are no free first class upgrades, but the free upgrade to premium economy and the free bags are always appreciated. My only fear now is, with Vx introducing an elite program that is based on dollars spent, the larger carriers like the rumor has it, Delta, might do the same.