Wow: Virgin Atlantic Will Award Tier Points On Reward Tickets

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has today announced some positive updates, including one new industry-first permanent feature that I’m very excited about.

Virgin Atlantic will award tier points for award flights

Let’s start with the most exciting development. As of September 1, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will award tier points even for award flights. Tier points are Virgin Atlantic’s version of elite qualifying miles, and the number of tier points you earn determines your elite status.

As Virgin Atlantic describes this decision, “we believe you should be rewarded every single time you choose to fly with Virgin Atlantic.” With this new program, you’ll earn the following number of tier points for one-way award flights:

  • Economy (A class) redemptions will earn 25 tier points
  • Premium economy (P class) redemptions will earn 50 tier points
  • Upper Class (G class) redemptions will earn 100 tier points

For context:

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver status requires 400 tier points every year
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold status requires 1,000 tier points every year

In other words, a roundtrip Upper Class award ticket from the US to India via London would earn you 400 tier points, enough for Flying Club Silver status.

Virgin Atlantic will award tier points on reward flights

This is innovative and awesome

To my knowledge, Virgin Atlantic is the first major airline to start awarding elite credits for all award tickets on its own metal. While we’ve seen most major hotel groups award elite credits for award stays for quite a while, this is something that we don’t otherwise see in the airline industry.

Now, admittedly Virgin Atlantic has hefty surcharges on most award tickets, so redemptions on Virgin Atlantic often require a significant cash outlay. Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic’s elite benefits are fairly weak, and mostly include priority services (priority check-in, security, lounge access, boarding, etc.). Virgin Atlantic elite status doesn’t come with any sort of complimentary upgrade benefit.

Still, this is a really great concept that should engage members, and it sure would be awesome to see this on a more widespread basis in the airline industry.

Virgin Atlantic’s elite perks are fairly weak

Virgin Atlantic vouchers get a lot more flexible

Virgin Atlantic has made some significant improvements to its vouchers, to make them simpler and more rewarding. This includes upgrade vouchers, companion vouchers, and Clubhouse vouchers.

Among these changes:

  • Companion vouchers can now be used in conjunction with any ticket in any booking class and can be used in any cabin of travel, excluding Economy Light and Economy Delight
  • If you earned companion vouchers through a credit card, you can book your companion into any cabin regardless of what status you hold:
    • If you are Silver or Gold, the companion reward seat will cost zero miles
    • If you are Red, the companion reward seat will cost zero miles in economy or premium economy, and there will be a 50% reduction in mileage for the companion in Upper Class
  • Upgrade vouchers can now be used in conjunction with any ticket in any booking class, including reward flights (but excluding Economy Light), for a one cabin upgrade on a return flight
  • Clubhouse vouchers are now valid for all flights booked on Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Air France, and KLM, when flying internationally

These are all fantastic changes.

Virgin Atlantic is making companion & upgrade vouchers more flexible

Virgin Atlantic will extend status & vouchers

In addition to the above permanent change, Virgin Atlantic will also be extending a lot of benefits by 12 months (previously six month extensions were announced, so this represents a further six months). Specifically:

  • For Flying Club Silver and Gold members, the expiry date of the membership year is being extended by 12 months
  • Flying Club members who have any valid companion, upgrade, or Clubhouse access vouchers, will have them automatically extended by 12 months

For example, Virgin Atlantic’s US credit card offers a companion voucher, and in the past this was restricted to economy for non-elite members, while you can now use it to get 50% off an Upper Class award.

Virgin Atlantic is extending elite status

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic has announced a series of positive initiatives today. Not only will vouchers be more flexible and easier to use, but you’ll also be able to earn elite credits for the award flights you take.

This makes Virgin Atlantic the first global airline to award elite status based on award flights, and it’s a trend that I hope we see expand to more airlines.

Do you think we’ll see other airlines follow Virgin Atlantic’s lead, and award elite status for reward flights?

  1. Aren’t they also extending miles by 6 months for those that are having their miles expire during a certain period, but not having any status?

  2. Finally something competitive against BA for ex-London passengers. Only took them a bankruptcy to get there!

  3. Some interesting changes. A couple of things, one spend on CC earns you tier points as well. I have been Silver for years (not that it has done me any good) but now I could probably earn gold fairly easy with a UC redemption on top of spend. Also I should have several companion vouchers due to spend on VS BoA card but it doesn’t look like they are tracked on the VS website. I have reached out to VS via text to see if they can tell me how many I have. They weren’t of any interest prior to this.

  4. What’s a clubhouse voucher and how or where would anyone earn/get them?

    Changes on the companion vouchers is great. Can earn silver status on spend alone, and redeem voucher on upper class, albeit with fees

  5. Hopefully, minority shareholder Delta will match this. Giving MQMs (not MQDs or redeemable miles) for award flights rewards loyalty and incentivizes customers to cash-in miles instead of accumulating them.

  6. If I were Virgin Atlantic, I would close all of the Clubhouses with the exception of LHR, MAN, and JFK. They just seem uncessary for 1 or 2 daily flight. Working with KLM/AF and DL to fulfill their lounge needs would be more cost effective. I love Virgin but it needs to get its costs under control, and if it means cutting more hip things, I’m okay with that. PS theses changes are great!

  7. I would guess this has nothing to do with loyalty and has everything to do with incentivizing people to use miles to the airline can reduce liabilities.

  8. I hope the award flight status credit idea becomes more widespread. QF offer it but only to members who qualify by having 150K miles in a membership year, of which 130K have to be earnt on the ground, e.g. from credit cards. Miles that you buy count in the 130K so it’s not too hard to qualify. I haven’t seen how many status credits you earn in each class, but as another poster said, it encourages you to use your miles.

  9. We are back to the times when customers will be stronger than the airlines so after many years of devaluations and getting perks out we will see a bonanza of offerings to attract customers back. Flyers market!!!

  10. Very interesting changes, worth looking into getting this card. I normally book awards on Virgin Atlantic in upper class. If I can get a 2nd upper class award booking at 50% off, that alone makes the card worth it for me.

  11. Finally. I’ve always thought it was a bit off that you didn’t get status for reward flights – especially with VS and Ba since you’re paying quite hefty fees.

    I’ve dropped from BA gold to silver in the past because I’ve used the miles I accumulated getting there to pay for the flights in subsequent years.

    Wonder how long until BA follow suit?

  12. Although it could be an attempt by an almost bankrupt airline to (a) get more customers and, (b) reduce the miles in circulation.

  13. All well and good. I would just appreciate a refund of the $700+ in Heathrow airport fees/taxes on two pay with points flights we cancelled months ago.

  14. I earned a companion voucher after cc spend but VS is not able to find it and BOA says that they sent it to VS. Not sure what to do. Anyone have advice? It’s not on the VS website.

  15. Qantas actually started doing this recently – but only for frequent flyers who have earnt 150k points from non-flying activity during their membership year.

  16. @Lucky – read that the following in the announcement actually means you can now use companion vouchers on paid tickets as well. Can you confirm?

    “Companion vouchers can now be used in conjunction with any ticket in any booking class”

  17. This is wonderful news. The first airline that introduces this feature to the Pacific Northwest (hint AS please?) will become my most favoured choice going forward.

    It has always been a pain when I purchase points for cash from an airline and then use the points exclusively to fly 5 to 10 trips a year in premium class and then only receive basic status with the airline. We have been told that selling points is actually very profitable for the airline, so it’s not like the giveaway of points for credit card purchases.

    Last year we flew around the world at least twice on points and I still have nothing to show for it. I fly AS to Mexico at least once a year on a paid ticket with companion fare (because the points rewards are unreasonable and the flights are short – only about 7 hours total). The rest of the year is Australia/Asia/South America/Africa/Portugal/Ukraine/Poland (the usual). Hundreds of thousands of points spent (at 2 cents a point is tens of thousands of dollars) are very profitable for the airline. Yet still zero status.

    I quite understand that earning points on a reward flight would be double-dipping and even Hilton cancelled that wonderful feature. But we can hope that earning status on purchased points would be a very welcome and reasonable addition to the reward program of any airline. It might even give them increased loyalty and an improved bottom line (they could probably increase the cost of purchased points significantly (but don’t tell them)).

    Way to go Branson. Good on ya Mate.

  18. The companion voucher earned via the credit card… can it only be used on VS award flights? or can it be used on partner airlines such as DL or KL ?

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