While the practical implications might not be huge, the new partnership between Singapore Airlines and Virgin America sure is interesting. I find it fascinating every time an airline with a traditional frequent flyer program partners with an airline with a revenue based program, as we get to see how they value things differently on both the accrual and redemption side.
At the beginning of the year Singapore and Virgin America began codesharing, which had limited implications since it only applied to itineraries involving both airlines, and most of the Virgin America routes were served by United anyway.
Then last week Singapore unveiled their award chart for travel on Virgin America, which was mildly lucrative for short-haul coach awards, but not very tempting for transcontinental or first class tickets.
But now we have the full details of the partnership, involving both accrual and redemption
Earning Virgin America Elevate points for flights on Singapore Airlines
Here’s Virgin America’s accrual chart for travel on Singapore:
As a point of comparison, here’s Singapore’s accrual chart for travel on their own flights:
So I think it goes without saying that accruing Elevate points for travel on Singapore is a horrible value. Virgin America has a revenue based program and gives passengers five points per dollar spent on their flights.
So for a San Francisco to Hong Kong flight in Suites Class you’d accrue roughly ~4,849 Elevate points. That’s the same number of points you’d earn for a ~$970 Virgin America ticket. That’s a far worse value than accruing ~10,391 KrisFlyer miles. So I suppose the chart is nice in theory if you’re big into collecting Elevate points, have a revenue Singapore flight, and don’t want to credit to KrisFlyer. But this is hardly a lucrative alternative.
Earning Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flights on Virgin America
Here’s Singapore’s accrual chart for travel on Virgin America:
For the occasional Virgin America flyer this is actually a really lucrative accrual chart. You’re earning 100% base miles on all revenue fare classes, so this is essentially a way to earn miles in a traditional frequent flyer program for travel on Virgin America.
For example if you pay $100 for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Seattle on Virgin America you have the choice between collecting 954 KrisFlyer miles and 500 Virgin American Elevate points. Virgin America Elevate points are each worth about 2.2 cents each towards the revenue cost of a Virgin America ticket, so I’d say KrisFlyer miles are the better value. That being said, if your fare is substantially higher or lower it can impact which program it’s more lucrative to credit to.
Redeeming Virgin America Elevate points for flights on Singapore Airlines
Here’s the mileage calculator for award redemptions through Virgin America for travel on Singapore Airlines.
There are a couple of interesting things worth noting. First of all, it appears as if Virgin America doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on Singapore. Furthermore, while they allow one-way awards, they price at 60% of the cost of a roundtrip.
What’s interesting is that Virgin America charges the same for all of Singapore’s routes between the US and Asia, including those out of Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, and San Francisco. And they seem to be the same whether you terminate in Hong Kong, Seoul, or Singapore, for example. So it’s a very simple chart.
In all cases it’s 130,000 points roundtrip in first class, 95,000 points roundtrip in business class, and 35,000 points roundtrip in economy class.
Keep in mind you can transfer points from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, though it’s at a 2:1 ratio. That means you’re looking at 260,000 Membership Rewards points for first class, 190,000 Membership Rewards points for business class, and 70,000 Membership Rewards points for coach. For first and business class it’s almost always a better value to go directly through KrisFlyer, though for coach it could actually make sense to redeem through Virgin America, since redemption rates are similar and you save a bunch of money by not booking through KrisFlyer, which imposes fuel surcharges.
For example, if you booked New York to Singapore roundtrip in coach you’d pay 35,000 Elevate points (the equivalent of 70,000 Membership Rewards points) plus ~$60 in taxes, while if you booked through Singapore KrisFlyer you’d pay 63,750 miles plus $691.69 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges. So it’s no doubt worth spending an extra 6,000 points to save over $600 in cash.
So I’d say there’s potentially quite a bit of value on the redemption side, especially if we were to see a transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate, as we’ve seen in the past.
Redeeming Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flights on Virgin America
I shared all my thoughts in this post, though for reference here’s their award chart:
What remains to be seen is what bucket Singapore pulls award space on Virgin America out of. Since Virgin America has a revenue based program they don’t have award “buckets” per se, as the number of points required for a redemption is entirely dependent on the revenue cost of the ticket.
I tried doing some research by calling up KrisFlyer and trying to book an award ticket from Seattle to Los Angeles, though that turned into quite an adventure.
Me: “Yes, I wanted to inquire about making an award reservation for travel between Seattle and Los Angeles on your new partner airline, Virgin America.”
Agent: “Sorry, which airline?”
Me: “Virgin America, it’s your new partner airline.”
Agent: “Please wait on hold as I look at availability.”
*Puts me on hold for a few minutes*
Agent: “I have checked availability for your dates on United and US Airways, and there is no availability.”
Me: “But could you please check space on your new partner airline, Virgin America?”
Agent: “Allow me to read you all our partner airlines [she proceeds to read every Star Alliance airline].”
Me: “Yes, but you also have a new partnership with Virgin America.”
Agent: “Could you please spell the name of the airline for me?”
I spelled it out and she put me on hold for about 30 seconds (not long enough for her to actually look up space) and then she returned.
Agent: “I checked availability on that airline and they don’t have space.”
Me: “Which airline?”
Agent: “The one you just mentioned.”
It’s nice to see a partnership that actually adds a bit of value for once. I’d say that KrisFlyer members get the better end of the bargain on the accrual side, while Elevate members get the better end of the bargain on the redemption side. Though in some cases redeeming KrisFlyer miles for travel on Virgin America can make sense as well, especially for west coast trips.
What do you guys think?