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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club announced some interesting changes yesterday. For those of us who have been earning miles and points for awhile – i.e. decades – one change is mind-boggling. Since the introduction of “frequent flyer programmes”, reward tickets have consistently provided little more than a seat on the plane – no miles to be earned, no contribution towards elite status qualification. But that is soon to change… Starting on 1 September, 2020, you can earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Tier Points when flying on certain reward tickets!
On Virgin Atlantic reward flights, you will earn the following – the same number of Tier Points as the lowest revenue fares in each cabin:
- Economy: 25 tier points each way
- Premium: 50 tier points each way
- Upper Class: 100 tier points each way
The Fine Print
This is no travel hacking free-for-all though…
- You will only earn Tier Points when you redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on Virgin Atlantic reward flights
- You will NOT earn Tier Points if you redeem some other mileage currency (i.e. Delta Skymiles, Flying Blue, etc.) for those Virgin Atlantic reward flights
- You will NOT earn Tier Points when redeeming Flying Club miles on partner airline reward flights (i.e. ANA, Delta, etc.)
- You won’t earn miles
Why it Makes Perfect Sense
Elite status is intended to reward travellers who frequently choose a specific airline (or its partners). Many airline executives have long considered revenue passengers to be key, with reward passengers being a bit of an inconvenience.
But if you look at Flying Club as a separate entity with members having a choice of how to use their valuable currency… A Flying Club member can:
- Use their miles on partner rewards, from ANA First Class to Hilton Honors points – all of these options will cost Flying Club money
- Use their miles to fly on Virgin Atlantic, paying fuel surcharges in the process
Why SHOULDN’T that second option be treated as a choice to be loyal to Virgin Atlantic (and incentivised appropriately)? Exactly…
Reaching Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Now that reward flights count for elite status purposes, how does the Flying Club system work?
Requirements for Elite Status
Flying Club has two levels of elite status – Silver and Gold. Eligibility is determined based on the number of Tier Points earned within a rolling 12-month period. If you are familiar with British Airways Executive Club, then you should be quite familiar with the concept of Tier Points. The rolling 12 months idea is a bit different, however, and it’s actually 13 months for first timers…
On a daily basis, Flying Club looks for Tier Points earned within what it calls an Upgrade Cycle. Your Upgrade Cycle is calculated from the current date of the month, to the 1st day of the same month in the previous year. As an example, if you earned 200 Tier Points on 5 December 2018 and another 200 Tier Points on 22 December 2019, your account will have been upgraded to Silver status.
Once your Upgrade Cycle includes 400 Tier Points, you become Silver immediately. Starting the next day, you begin your 12-month re-qualification period.
In addition, those 400 Tier Points are not lost. They can still count towards your chase of 1,000 Tier Points for Gold status, again within a rolling (almost) 13-month period. This can be quite confusing, as you will often be attempting to qualify for Gold status on an entirely different schedule to your renewal of Silver.
As a summary, you have:
- Nearly 13 months to earn 400 Tier Points for Silver or 1,000 Tier Points for Gold and qualify for the first time
- Exactly 12 months from your qualification date to earn 400 Tier Points to renew Silver or 1,000 Tier Points to renew Gold
The Benefits of Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Standard Benefits with Virgin Atlantic
Silver status gets you the following from Virgin Atlantic:
- 30% bonus miles on paid flights
- Premium Economy check-in
- Free seat selection, including in “Economy Light” for the member only
- 2,000 free miles as a gift when renewing Silver
Gold status gets you:
- 60% bonus miles on paid flights
- Upper Class check-in
- Access to Virgin’s Clubhouse for the member + one guest
- Access to Revivals arrival lounge at London Heathrow
- Free seat selection in “Economy Light” for member + any companions on same PNR
- Complimentary exit row seats when booking “Economy Classic”
- One additional piece of checked luggage
- The ability to add up to nine members to a Household Account
- 2,000 free miles on your birthday
- A complimentary companion ticket for renewing Gold
The Bottom Line
Although Silver status is nice to have, Gold status is ultimately the only Flying Club status worth aiming for. However, if you are already travelling on a reward ticket in Upper Class, you will already enjoy Clubhouse access and the other amazing perks on offer.
The most interesting element of this change is the precedent that it sets. Will any other major airline follow suit? Or is this a desperate move from a doomed airline / loyalty programme?