Virgin America has a new referral program and website to promote it: Loyalty Made Me Do It. It’s an interesting way to encourage you to… join a loyalty program. 😛
There are two basic flavors of loyalty program. Revenue-based programs are making big inroads lately, I presume because it’s easier to manage costs and harder for customers to exploit the system. You earn X points per dollar, and those points are worth Y cents toward a future flight, but in return you can generally redeem them for any flight you want. It’s basically a rebate. Southwest and Virgin America have been doing it for a while. United and Delta are halfway there, using the cost of your ticket to help determine how you earn elite status (distance flown still matters) and how many redeemable miles you’ll earn (redemptions are region-based with fixed prices).
Conventional loyalty programs like American and Alaska’s determine status and miles almost entirely based on how far you fly, not by how much you spend. This creates an opportunity to exploit the system. I love earning miles and status for less than the average customer and then redeeming them for high-value awards, whether it’s a short but expensive domestic flight or a chance to sit up front on an international flight. But I admit it is a hassle for some.
Basically, we’ve got chocolate and vanilla ice cream here. Everyone loves chocolate, though IMO it’s hard to do much with it because the flavor overwhelms everything. Vanilla takes some more effort to make it appealing, but you can dress it up any way you like. I like hot fudge and caramel. NO CHERRY!
Virgin America’s website argues that we do stupid stuff for the sake of loyalty, whether to earn it or in the pursuit of lackluster benefits, so they’ll give you up to 8,000 miles to join their Elevate loyalty program and let you earn even more miles by referring your friends. From the official T&Cs: “For every person you refer who enrolls in the Elevate program, you will earn bonus reward points according to the cabin in which they complete their first flight with Virgin America: Main Cabin 2,500 points, Main Cabin Select 5,000 points and First Class 7,500 points.” The person you refer also earns miles, plus 500 for signing up.
Not a member of Elevate?
- 500 miles for joining
- Earn between 2,500 and 7,500 miles for flying by December 31, 2014.
Already a member of Elevate?
- Refer a friend and earn between 2,500 and 7,500 miles for each person who flies by December 31, 2014.
Yes, this means you can earn lots of miles by referring more than one person. You could even choose to redeem them on a partner, such as Emirates or Singapore Airlines. (You’d have to refer 38 friends who flew in the Main Cabin to earn enough for a one-way business class award from LAX to Singapore.) But I probably wouldn’t use the points, so I won’t refer you. Maybe you have a friend who’s already a member and can refer you instead.
I’ve flown it. Didn’t care for it. The purple lights and sarcastic hipster safety videos were part of it. Service was okay. There are more amenities available, including entertainment and snacks, but they are for sale and not included. It’s nice to have options, though, and I can see the appeal to people who feel pushed aside by their existing loyalty programs. Revenue-based loyalty programs do work best for most average travelers. My sister reviewed it last year if you want to see a more positive evaluation from one such “average” traveler. (Who, by the way, got to enjoy the Champagne Bar three times in Hong Kong thanks to me.)
I’m happy to stick with American and Alaska. I’m not an average traveler, and by flying over 100,000 miles a year I earn the status I need to get upgraded pretty regularly and earn miles for those international vacations. But if you’re just hopping around the U.S., you might find Virgin America appealing. At the very least, visit the site for the videos at the bottom. 😉