Does loyalty with airlines even matter right now? Virgin Atlantic is making a case to say more than ever, with a variety of new loyalty program moves which make points easier to understand, miles easier to spend and perks closer to within your grasp. It’s all too rare these days to share entirely positive airline news, but today is a very good day.
Virgin Flying Club Status Extensions
After being one of the first airlines to offer a six month extension to Virgin Flying Club Status, due to covid-19, other airlines upped the ante, with one year extensions. Now, Virgin Atlantic is topping up those extensions again, with an additional 6 months of elite status validity, meaning Silver will stay Silver, and Gold will stay Gold for longer.
“We recognise our loyalty programme is extremely important to our Flying Club members and we want to ensure our most loyal customers don’t lose out on their benefits while they’ve had less opportunity to fly with Virgin Atlantic.”Oli Byers, SVP Loyalty & Data, Virgin Atlantic
The too long, didn’t read (tl:dr) version is that anyone who had Virgin Atlantic elite status will have a year extended to it, rather than six months. That means elite status into 2022, for most. If you were about to lose it, that’s pretty lucky…
Voucher Rewards Simplified
As you spend on Virgin Atlantic credit cards, or earn more tier points by flying frequently, you pick up benefits and perks along the way, typically in the form of a voucher. Whether it’s an upgrade voucher, a companion ticket voucher or a voucher for Clubhouse Lounge access, those should now be much simpler and enjoyable to use.
No one likes flying every week and earning a perk, only to find out that they can’t cash it in during the one chance they’d like to, or on a great airfare deal.
All upgrade vouchers can now be used when you book any ticket, rather than being restricted to pesky fare codes, or not being allowed on points bookings. The one exception is economy “light”, which is the only cabin you can’t book into if you want to upgrade.
Unlike before, you can now book the cheapest Premium Economy tickets and upgrade to Upper Class, or even use points for the original booking in any cabin, and use the voucher to upgrade one cabin up.
Companion Ticket Vouchers
All companion tickets can now be used when you book a flight into any booking class, rather than restricted by what tier you are in the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and needing to use points for the main booking.
You’ll still need to find a seat available using miles for the companion, but it doesn’t matter whether you pay cash or miles for your ticket.
The previous restriction where Red members could only book Economy is gone, and now a companion is a companion, whether you pay cash, or use points, adding huge flexibility to this benefit.
A Red member can now fly in Economy or Premium using their voucher with their companion pays no miles to join whatsoever, just taxes and surcharges, or they can enjoy a 50% discount on the miles their companion would need for Upper Class.
For Silver and Gold members, both can now use their companion voucher for any cabin, including Upper Class, and pay zero miles for the second passenger, just paying taxes and fees as well. It’s a true “companion” ticket.
Clubhouse Lounge Vouchers
Clubhouse Lounge vouchers are a fun way to toast a trip, or reward friends, family or colleagues with a nice flying experience. Previously, the vouchers could only be used at the London Heathrow Clubhouse, and only if you were flying Virgin Atlantic.
Now, you can use the vouchers at any Virgin Clubhouse, as long as you’re flying internationally with Delta, Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic that day. And yes, Delta to Canada would count, for those in the USA. Basically, more choice, more locations, and less red tape.
Earn Tier Points When You Use Miles
Virgin Atlantic has two main different currencies: tier points, and flying club miles. Tier Points can be earned, but not spent, and help you climb the ranks of Flying Club, from Red, to Silver and up to Gold. Flying Club Miles are earned from flying, or spending on a credit card and can be redeemed for flights, upgrades and more.
In a revolutionary move, Virgin Atlantic will reward tier points, which help you achieve elite Flying Club Silver, or Gold status, even on bookings made with miles. So yes, if you book an Upper Class flight using points, you’ll earn tier points, as if you’d paid cash for the flight.
Do it enough, and you can earn your way all the way up to top tier Gold elite status, without ever “technically” buying a ticket. Surcharges on Virgin Atlantic tickets booked with miles aren’t insignificant in most cabins, so this is a great way of giving back.
How many tier points will you earn on Virgin Atlantic bookings made with miles? Economy will earn 25 tier points each way, Premium 50 and Upper Class 100. Virgin Atlantic Silver requires 400 tier points per year, and Gold requires 1000. At 2,000 tier points, Gold’s also get an upgrade voucher for two, which can be highly lucrative.
Loyalty is still loyalty, and if you are close to earning elite status, but have miles to spend, you shouldn’t have to compromise and book a cash ticket, just to hit a goal. The new change kicks in September 1st, and even previously booked tickets will apply. You quite literally could earn Silver status with four one way Upper Class bookings made with miles, or Gold with 10 of them.
What’s your favorite change to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program?
Sounds like they are getting desperate for new custom! And I don’t blame them with the way the transatlantic market is!
These changes are permanent and not just a one time exception for Covid right?
Might be some regret by those who checked out their Virgin miles for Hilton points 🤔
Awesome stuff. This makes them much more competitive when compared to the BA companion voucher. I would rather fly virgin over BA any day if the week and earning status when using miles is a winner. Top marks to virgin
So does that mean as a red tier member I can use miles for first seat and then companion ticket to get upper class for just the tax cost?
I have 3 companion tickets can I do anything with them? Convert to points?
Hey Jimmy, As a red, you could book yourself into Upper using miles or cash, then use 50% of required miles for your companion. If you get to Silver (now easier thanks to tier points counting on miles redemptions) then your companion would just be tax/fees cost, like you said.
That’s all great but what about the 110,000 miles I used for a ANA award that was cancelled but the miles are frozen because they have not processed the refund? You need to take a more critical view of their operations or otherwise be held as their lap dog. Don’t give away your customer equity for a pretender!
Agree with you 100%.
Smart move by Virgin. I have a voucher for an Upper Class return flight from New York. Can’t wait to use it. Hopefully America will solve its Covid-19 mess by 2022. I haven’t flown since December 2019 and it’s the longest I’ve been on the ground for decades.
Since Shai Weiss took over as CEO Virgin has been getting better and better and I believe this leap to genuinely show it values its customers, is in large part due to his forward-thinking. It really is rare for a so-called rewards program to actually live up to its name.
Hey. Great post 🙂
If we use the upgrade voucher to book upper class, would we get tier points for booking premium or upper class?
Typically you’re supposed to get the tier points for the cabin you booked, and if you upgrade using points it should be the lower cabin tier points that are awarded. So if you book Premium but then upgrade to Upper, you’d likely get Premium tier points. However, if you book Upper from the start, you’ll get the 100+ tier points each way.
I have 2 newbie questions on these companion certificates.
1). can they be used on codeshare flights by Delta/KLM/AF ? or just purely Virgin flghts?
2). can they be used on flights with more than one segment ? e.g. ATL-HKG which would involve a connection in London
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