Virgin America, Singapore Air announce frequent flyer reciprocity


The partnership between Virgin America and Singapore Air has deepened with the announcement this week of frequent flyer reciprocity between the two programs. Members in both programs will be able to earn and redeem points for flights on the partner. Virgin America is celebrating by offering 500 free points to all their members. Mostly great news, really, though the devil is in the details.

For Virgin America’s Elevate members the earning rates for Singapore Air-operated flights are pretty meager:

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Yes, I get that Elevate is a revenue-based program rather than a distance-based one so the 1:1 ratio doesn’t necessarily line up perfectly. But a 70% earning rate for paid Suites cabin travel is pretty darn low. A paid business class ticket from San Francisco to Singapore will net 4,220 points or roughly $100 in Elevate credit. That same flight will earn between 10,000 and 17,000 points when credited to a Star Alliance partner of Singapore Air; it is hard to value that at less than the $100 Elevate is offering and quite easy to do better than the $100 level.

Redeeming Elevate points for travel on Singapore Air is similarly challenging. A return trip in business class on SFO-SIN rings in at 95,000 points. Just over 22 round trip flights will net you enough points to redeem for one. That’s roughly double the rate required from most other Singapore Air partners.

For short-haul redemptions in SE Asia, however, the Elevate option may be a reasonable one. Singapore to Bangkok is only 6,000 points and $46 in taxes/fees for a return trip in economy; it is 13,000 in business. That’s roughly $200-350 worth of points and fees. The next closest I can find is 20,000 from ANA or 25,000 points from a host of other carriers for an economy class ticket. Redeeming Elevate points would be a win there, at least compared to the other programs. Or you can look at is as a paid business class SFO-SIN gets you a free economy onward to Bangkok at some later point. Not necessarily the best deal but not completely awful either. And with 136 new routes now available plenty of opportunity to suss out the deals. Just don’t expect a lot of premium cabin inventory to show up, especially on long-haul routes.

For Singapore Air’s KrisFlyer members earning on Virgin American-operated flights actually looks like a pretty good deal. The accrual rates are a minimum of 100% of the miles flown with a 50% bonus for C, D and J class tickets. No bonus for Main Cabin Select but that’s not too surprising. The redemption rates on Virgin America metal are a bit complex, and not particularly great (40K for transcon return in economy) but there is an option for Main Cabin Select redemption if you’re in to that. It is not clear what fare bucket the awards come out of so access to the seats may be limited.

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Overall this is a solid partnership, especially for KrisFlyer members. And there are even a few gems in there for the Elevate members, too.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

15 Comments

  1. just look at that transcon redemption rate. 170K for roundtrip JFK-SFO/LAX in F. RIDICULOUS.

    I can get either AA F or UA p.s. F for half that number.

  2. That one is definitely pricey, Jackie, but there are some decent deals in there, too. Only 18K return up and down the west coast in coach isn’t bad at all. And without knowing what inventory limits there are even some of the mid-level awards might not be too horrid if they have decent availability.

  3. If you live in Southern California a simple way to earn some extra Virgin America points is Mogl. It’s a dining program that returns 10% in cash or VX points. Here’s my referral link(ok’ed by Seth) – http://mo.gl/19r1dxv . We’ve pulled down enough for a couple flights.

  4. Thanks for covering this and boiling it down to primarily having a KrisFlyer account for flying on Virgin America.

  5. Actually, the redemption rate is pretty decent. For example, a roundtrip economy ticket between Singapore and Hong Kong only costs 35,000 points. If I were to use UA miles to redeem, it would cost me 65,000 miles. Same thing for Business class, Virgin America’s redemption cost is only 95,000 points, on UA it would cost 120,000 miles (saver award).

    Unless you fly UA (or any star alliance partners) a lot to rack up lot of miles on cheap tickets, Virgin America point redemption on Singapore airlines is actually quite reasonable.

  6. The problem with only looking at the redemption numbers, Raymond, is that the cost to acquire the points varies dramatically between the programs. Yes, it is “only” 95k return in business, but accruing that 95k points takes 22 return trips. If you credit the same 22 return trips in paid biz to United you would have nearly enough points for two award trips.

  7. Hmmm…with USAirways leaving *A….could this possibly mean that Virgin AMerica may one day be a part of *A? Who will take USAirways’ place ?

  8. I wouldn’t read anything at all into this move vis a vis alliances. VX doesn’t offer anything useful to *A, even with US on the way out.

  9. I see what you’re saying. When one earns miles by flying UA or star alliance, the cost to get those miles is significantly cheaper.

    However, I was thinking of it in terms of credit card spending. With Virgin America Visa, I have to spend $35,000 to get 35,000 Elevate points, but with United I have to spend $65,000 to get 65,000 miles for an economy seat.

    Since I really don’t fly that much (domestically I only fly Southwest or may be JetBlue), it would be much better deal for me to put my spending on Virgin America Visa rather than my United explorer card. However, when I do fly, I can see that the cost-to-earning ratio is much better on Star Alliance.

    1. If your primary earn mechanism is CC spending then this partnership opens up some very interesting options for SQ metal at a very low opportunity cost.

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