Virgin America has upgraded their Elevate frequent flyer program, announcing today the introduction of a tiered elite status system. The changes add two tiers, Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold, to the program and add a number of nice benefits for customers. The program benefits will take effect on August 8, 2012.
Much like the rest of the program, the qualification for Elevate elite status is based on spend with the company. The silver tier requires 20,000 status points to qualify which is the equivalent of $4,000 in spend on airfare. Gold status requires 50,000 status points. Customers carrying a co-branded credit card can earn up to 10,000 status points for spending $25,000 annually on the card as well, making qualification a bit easier, though cards without an annual fee earn only 5,000 status points at the $25,000 spend mark.
The benefits of the program will vary based on status but the underlying concepts are pretty consistent. All elites will be permitted to check in using the first class line at airports, use priority security screening lines where available and board the plane earlier than other passengers.
Elites will also be able to check bags for free. Silver elites get one free bag and gold elites get three. Similarly both will earn bonus points for their flying. Silver elites will earn a 25% bonus and gold elites a 100% bonus on flights. These bonus miles are only earnt on Virgin America flights, not on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia travel.
Both Silver and Gold elite passengers will also be able to select Main Cabin Express seats (designated seats at front of the cabin) at the time of booking rather than waiting until check-in. Elites will also be eligible for free upgrades to Main Cabin Select (extra pitch, free food & drinks) on a space-available basis. And elites will have early access to first class buy-ups on the day of departure. These discounted upgrades will be available to gold elites starting 24 hours out and to sliver elites 12 hours out.
Finally, there is one benefit that Virgin America is offering which will be hard for any other program to match: A trip to space!
The passenger who earns the most Elevate status points (i.e. spends the most cash with the company) between August 8, 2012 and August 7, 2013 will win a trip on Virgin Galactic. Out of this world!
The program is obviously targeted at folks spending a good chunk of cash with the airline. Not much of a surprise there as the business side really wants the be rewarding the those customers who actually are contributing to the bottom line more than those who have figured out how to scheme the system. And, while it would be nice to see a few freebie upgrades to First Class for the top elites, the cabin has very few seats and easier access to those is certainly better than not.
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