Virgin America and the Elevate Loyalty Program

by Brian on July 12, 2012

in Elevate - Virgin America, Virgin America, Visa Signature

Review of Virgin America and the Elevate Loyalty Program

Virgin America at PDX. Credit: Michael Beall

Virgin America is associated with British business mogul Richard Branson’s global airline empire, which includes Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. It is, however, a U.S.-owned airline, as the Virgin Group only owns 25 percent due to restrictions on ownership of U.S. airlines by foreign entities.

The airline has a highly competitive inflight product featuring mood-lit cabins with wide, 19.7 inch leather seats. Every seat has standard and USB plugs as well as touchscreen video with free basic Dish Network satellite TV service. You can also order food and drinks, as well as shop online, with the in-flight entertainment system called “Red.”

Virgin America has three levels of inflight service to chose from: First Class, complete with white leather seats with 55 inch seat pitch and two free checked bags; Main Cabin Select, featuring custom black leather seats with six inches of additional legroom in coach, plus one free checked bag; and Main Cabin, with standard coach seating (and $25 for the first checked bag).

The travel industry and flyers have rewarded Virgin America with acclaim and numerous awards for its inflight service. Readers of Travel + Leisure magazine recently named Virgin America the best domestic airline for the fifth year in a row.

Virgin America operates a fleet of new Airbus A319s and A320s from its home base at San Francisco International Airport to destinations across the United States and Mexico.

Credit: David Beall.

Destinations include: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Cancun, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Cabos (Mexico), New York (JFK), Orlando, Palm Springs, Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), San Diego, Seattle, Washington D.C. (IAD), Philadelphia, and Portland (Oregon).

Virgin America Elevate Frequent Flyer Program

For frequent Virgin America travelers, Elevate is the airline’s loyalty program.  Travelers who enroll in the program earn Elevate points for money spent on Virgin America flights and through transactions with airline, hotel, rental car, and shopping partners.

Earning Points for Travel on Virgin America

  • Earn five points per dollar spent on the base fare for travel on Virgin America.
  • Earn three additional points per dollar spent on the base fare when using the Virgin America Visa Signature Card.

Earning Points with Virgin America Partners

  • Earn a percentage of miles flown as points for travel internationally on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.
  • Earn points for dollars spent on rental cars with Hertz, Avis, and Budget.
  • Earn 1 point for every $2 spent (or a minimum number of points depending on the nightly rate) at hotel partners around the world.
  • Earn miles with Virgin America’s other shopping, cruise, and lifestyle partners.
  • See Virgin America’s website for complete details regarding its partners.

Credit: David Beall.

Elevate Program Basics

  • Earn 5 status points per $1 spent on the base fare of Virgin America tickets.
  • Earn status points with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia based on the number of miles you fly and the class of service in which you travel.
  • Earn 10,000 status points—halfway to Elevate Silver—when you spend at least $25,000 in a calendar year on the Virgin America Visa Signature Card.
  • Elevate points do not expire as long as you have earning or redemption activity at least once every 18 months.
  • There are no blackout dates or restrictions on reward flights.
  • Start flying for free with as few as 2,500 points for one-way tickets.
  • Gain access to special events and Virgin America deals.

Elevate Elite Status Levels

Elevate Silver:

  • Requires 20,000 status points.
  • 25 percent bonus per status points earned.
  • Access to Main Cabin Express at booking.
  • Complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select 12 hours before departure.
  • Advance purchase window for First Class upgrades 12 hours before departure.
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding.
  • Dedicated Elevate Silver reservations line, email, and live chat.
  • 25 percent off 1 non-refundable Main Cabin ticket per year.
  • 1 free checked bag (up to 50 pounds).
  • $100 redeposit fee for unused Elevate points.
  • No call center fee.
  • Exclusive deals and promotions with Virgin America partners.

Elevate Gold

  • Requires 50,000 status points.
  • 100 percent bonus per status points earned.
  • Access to Main Cabin Express at booking.
  • Complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select 24 hours before departure.
  • Advance purchase window for First Class upgrades 24 hours before departure.
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding.
  • Dedicated Elevate Gold reservations line, email, and live chat.
  • 25 percent off 2 non-refundable Main Cabin tickets per year.
  • 3 free checked bags (up to 50 pounds).
  • No redeposit fee for unused Elevate points.
  • No call center fee.
  • Exclusive deals and promotions with Virgin America partners.

Redeeming Elevate Points

  • Elevate points needed per flights are based on fare price.  On average, Elevate points can be redeemed for about 2 cents each (which is pretty good).
  • Sample points needed for Main Cabin from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Los Angeles (LAX):
    • The last week of August 2012: 8,744 one way
    • The first week of September 2012: 9,210
    • The second week in November 2012: 11,907
  • Sample points needed for Main Cabin from San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX):
    • The last week of August 2012: as few as 2,233
    • The first week of September 2012: as few as 2,233
    • The second week in November 2012: as few as 2,698
  • Elevate points may be redeemed on Hawaiian Airlines.
    • A round-trip, coach flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) is 20,000 points + $5 in taxes/fees.
    • A round-trip, coach flight from New York City (JFK) to Honolulu is 35,000 points +$5 in taxes/fees.
  • Elevate points may also be redeemed for international partner flights on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. However, the international award tickets are subject to hefty taxes on top of the Elevate points needed for travel. This does not seem like as great a deal as you can find using award miles to book flights to similar overseas destinations through larger carriers like United, Delta, and American. Here are several examples:
    • Washington-Dulles (IAD) to London Heathrow (LHR) on Virgin Atlantic
      • Economy 15,000: Elevate points and $650 taxes and fees
      • Premium Economy: 25,000 Elevate points and $750 taxes and fees
      • Upper Class 35,000 Elevate points and $1,100 taxes and fees
    • Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) on Virgin Australia
      • Economy 15,000: Elevate points and $650 taxes and fees
      • Premium Economy: 25,000 Elevate points and $750 taxes and fees
      • Upper Class: 35,000 Elevate points and $1,100 taxes and fees
    • Chicago (ORD) to Johannesburg (JNB) on Virgin Atlantic
      • Economy: 45,000 Elevate points $1,300 taxes and fees
      • Premium Economy: 70,000 Elevate points and $1,550 taxes and fees
      • Upper Class: 95,000 Elevate points and $2,000 taxes and fees

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Previous post:

Next post: