Virgin Atlantic introduces widespread changes to Flying Club programme

31 Oct 2016 by Tom Otley

Virgin Atlantic is introducing wide ranging changes to its loyalty programme – Flying Club.

Starting from November 13, 2016, the amount paid for tickets plays a larger part in the amount of miles earned in the programme, and there are new tier point earning rates and tier thresholds. Virgin says

“We have restructured how you earn tier points in each cabin to better align with the price you have paid for your ticket”.

So is this a partial move towards a revenue-based programme?

“The short answer is yes,” Oli Byers, SVP of Revenue Management and Customer Loyalty told Business Traveller. “We haven’t gone all the way but we do want to reflect that loyalty should be more aligned to spend rather than the number of sectors that someone flies. So yes, it does reflect the revenue spend.”

You can read the full interview here

Interview: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

For flyers buying expensive tickets such as Upper Class and flexible premium economy tickets (W, S), the changes are good news. The number of miles earned for these tickets will increase. For those buying the least expensive tickets, the number of miles earned will be reduced. Virgin denies, however, that the changes represent a move to a purely revenue-based system since “The way you earn miles will still continue to be based on the distance flown”.

Tier point changes

The pdf of changes is here.

Virgin’s tiers are red, silver and gold.

For existing members, all tier points currently held by members have been increased by 25x. The number of tier points needed to reach silver and gold will be 400 and 1000 respectively.

Members will earn tier points for travel depending on ticket type or cabin. Members will earn 25 tier points for the lowest economy tickets up to 200 tier points in Upper Class.

Silver status is reached and maintained with 400 tier points (which could be one Upper Class return flight (J, C, D, I)).

Gold status is reached and maintained with 1,000 tier points (three Upper Class return flights (J, C, D, I).

As far as miles earned are concerned, there are tier bonuses depending on tier level, so for instance Red members will earn 50 per cent of the base flown miles in economy and from 400 per cent of the base flown miles if travelling in Upper Class.

Gold members will also enjoy a 60 per cent bonus and Silver members a 30 per cent bonus on flown miles stacked on top of the cabin bonus.

Virgin Atlantic FlyingCO

Seasonal fares

To encourage members to use their rewards outside of peak seasons, the standard reward flights start from 20,000 miles, 15,000 fewer miles than before. But peak time reward flights start from 20,000 miles more than the new price of a standard reward flight (35,000). Taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges apply.

There are two prices for each cabin, a standard price and another for peak seasons:

  • Standard price: 16 January – 30 March 2017; 19 April – 21 June 2017; 7 September – 12 December 2017
  • Peak season: 31 March – 18 April 2017; 22nd June – 6 September 2017; 13 December – 3 January 2018

The standard reward and peak season reward flights become available to book from 16 January 2017.

Upgrading using miles

An upgrade now costs 50 per cent of the miles of a reward seat for a one cabin upgrade and 75 percent of the cost of a reward seat for a two cabin upgrade.

For example an upgrade from economy to premium economy is possible by exchanging the economy revenue ticket for 50 per cent of the miles needed for a premium economy reward seat, or 75 per cent of the miles needed for an Upper Class reward seat.

The amount of miles will depend on the season, so a member would need 8,700 miles (a one way standard season reward flight) to upgrade to a one way premium economy reward flight from London to New York, since a one way standard season reward flight in premium economy cabin is 17,500 miles.

An upgrade from premium economy to Upper Class will require 50 per cent of the miles needed for an Upper Class reward seat. This would be 18,700 miles (a one way standard season reward flight) to upgrade to a one way Upper Class reward flight from London to Dubai.

Note that these examples exclude the lowest price tickets (N,O,V) in Economy and (K) in Premium Economy. Taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges apply and all upgrades are subject to availability.

Miles Plus Money

For every 3,000 miles spent, members will receive £18 off the price of the fare. Virgin says that “with enough miles, it will be possible to pay for an entire trip using Miles Plus Money, which includes taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges”. Miles and tier points on all Miles Plus Money bookings.

Miles Plus Money bookings can be made on the carrier’s website from 13 November 2016, but cannot be made via Virgin’s Customer Service Centre.

Other changes in brief:

  • Membership number for life

Previously Virgin changed membership numbers as members moved up or down through tiers. Members will now have a membership number for life. Red members will have a virtual card (digital).

  • New membership accounts for under 12s.
  • Gold members will be able to pool family miles together into one account called: the Household Account.

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