Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.
One of the interesting trends in airline loyalty programmes over the years has been the continuing attempt to gain new members (including those who are not traditional frequent flyers) and increase the number of ways in which members interact with the programme/brand.
Examples include the ubiquitous shopping portals where you can earn or redeem miles/points on non-travel related items, partnerships with credit card companies, promotions for taking out insurance, etc. Perhaps the most ambitious version of this is the Avios platform – the aim of which is to be much bigger, and more deeply entrenched in people’s daily lives, than ‘just’ a frequent flyer scheme.
It now looks though IAG/Avios are going to be facing competition from Virgin in the quest to capture a larger share of customer’s hearts/wallets/data:
“Virgin Group and Virgin Atlantic announce their intention to launch a new Virgin loyalty programme, powered by the currency of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club
Today we’re announcing the intention for the Virgin Group and Virgin Atlantic to launch a new Virgin-wide loyalty programme, with unique and differentiated reward opportunities, to reward customer loyalty across Virgin branded companies. This new loyalty programme will offer members the chance to earn and spend ‘miles’, the currency of Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer programme, across a range of products and services.
A new company, Virgin Group Loyalty Company (VGLC), will be established to own and manage this exciting Virgin loyalty programme. Virgin Red, an existing loyalty start-up within the Virgin Group, will also be integrated into the group-wide loyalty programme, as we bring reward across the Virgin family together into a single company and create a more valuable offer for our customers. VGLC will launch in 2019 and will be owned by Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines.
Flying Club will continue as the frequent flyer programme for Virgin Atlantic’s customers and will continue to use miles as its currency. Flying Club members will continue to earn Tier Points and earn and spend miles across Virgin Atlantic, Delta and a range of airline and other partners as they do today. In the future Flying Club members can look forward to an expanded range of valuable ways to earn and spend miles that will be powered by the new Virgin loyalty programme.
Andrew Swaffield has been appointed as CEO to lead VGLC. Andrew was previously Chief Executive of Avios and oversaw its creation, and most recently was CEO of the Monarch group. Prior to that he spent 17 years with British Airways and 10 years with Thomas Cook.
Andrew Swaffield, CEO of VGLC, said: “Virgin is one of the most admired brands in the UK and across the world, serving 53 million customers each year across 60 companies. Customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty to Virgin and we want to ensure Virgin customers get the very best rewards possible. Our ambition is to bring the Virgin companies together and combine their appeal to customers, working together to create a truly outstanding offer”
Oli Byers, SVP Global Sales and Customer Loyalty, Virgin Atlantic, said:
“Today Flying Club offers Virgin Atlantic’s customers compelling and valuable rewards for flying on Virgin Atlantic, Delta and a range of Flying Club partners. This will continue to be the case, but at the same time we’re excited to work collaboratively with Virgin Group to build a stronger loyalty programme and unleash the power of our shared brand to reward customers for their loyalty to Virgin. We’ll be giving customers more reasons to join Flying Club and fly with Virgin Atlantic and our airline partners.”
The Virgin Group Loyalty Company and Virgin Atlantic will keep customers updated with more detail of the exciting new proposition as it is developed.”
Questions and answers
- Can you tell us more about the rewards and benefits?
In the future Flying Club members can look forward to an expanded range of valuable ways to earn and spend miles that will be powered by the new Virgin loyalty programme. The Virgin Group Loyalty Company and Virgin Atlantic will keep customers updated with more detail of the exciting new proposition as it is developed.
- What changes are there for Flying Club members?
The change announced today is an internal one and we want to reassure our members that they can continue to earn Tier Points and earn and spend miles across Virgin Atlantic, Delta and a range of airline and other partners as they do now. But in the future the new loyalty programme will offer members the chance to earn and spend ‘miles’, the currency of Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer programme, across a range of products and services.
- When can you tell us more?
We look forward to sharing with our customers detail about the wealth of new partners, products and services they’ll enjoy through the new company as these are developed, and we’ll of course keep our people regularly updated too so please watch this space.
I’m actually surprised it’s taken Virgin so long to make a serious move in this direction. There has long been more ad hoc arrangements in place, like being able to earn Flying Club Miles on Virgin Trains, and the Virgin Red app already brings things together to an extent, but it’s obvious they could do so much more. The Virgin brand is a lot stronger in the UK than Avios (or even Nectar) and I can see this doing very well.
The fact that it is Andrew Swaffield (former Avios Chief Executive) who is leading the project must also be considered a bit of a coup for Virgin – I imagine he learned a lot from his experience at Avios.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this news though. On the one hand, I always like to see more opportunities to earn and redeem points/miles, so this could be a good thing. However, it could also be the start of a steep and slippery slope to fixed values for Virgin Miles, which is something many of us are already concerned about in relation to Avios.
What do you think?