Virgin Atlantic flying club announced a spate of program changes on June 30 — and, as far as we can tell, there’s not a bad change in the bunch.
Where to begin?
Let’s start with earning levels. Flying club members have always earned 100 percent of miles flown on all qualifying economy fares, and that’s not changing. But, members flying in full-fare economy (Y, B and L classes) will now earn 125 percent of miles flown. And, flying club gold members will earn an additional 25 percent bonus across all classes of service, taking their earnings to 125 percent in discount Economy, 150 percent in full-fare Economy, 175 percent in Premium Economy and 225 percent in Upper Class.
Flying club has also reduced reward costs to several destinations, as well as for upgrades and companion tickets. Economy companion awards have been reduced from 30,000 miles to 20,000 miles, Premium Economy from 40,000 to 30,000 and Upper Class from 75,000 to 65,000. On the upgrade front, upgrades from Economy to Premium Economy are now just 20,000 miles (down from 35,000) and to go from Premium Economy to Upper Class you’ll only have to part with 40,000 miles (previously 50,000). What’s more, members can now upgrade directly from Economy to Upper Class for 60,000 miles.
Members traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami or Orlando will now only need to redeem 80,000 miles for the trip, a reduction of 20,000 miles. And if flying to Tokyo on an award, the cost has been reduced from 150,000 to 100,000.
Among the most interesting of the changes are those to the tier levels. Until the end of 2003, and only until the end of 2003, the number of tier points required to move up in status and to retain status have been reduced in the following manner:
And members who are able to meet these reduced requirements will be privy to additional benefits, such as upgrades to First Class on London Heathrow and Gatwick Express trains, discounts on BCP parking services at London Heathrow and Gatwick, and Fast Track through Immigration and Security on departure at London Heathrow and Gatwick (last benefit is available to gold members only).
Think that’s all? Think again. At the bottom of the Web page on Virgin Atlantic’s site that outlines all of these changes (http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/flying_club_look.view.do ) there is a sentence that by all appearances looks to have been thrown in almost as an afterthought. The sentence reads, in part: “…flying club gold members will be awarded a free companion ticket for a flight in any class, upon renewal of gold membership.”
With afterthoughts like that, who needs forethought?
Combined with the lower gold tier requirements, this benefit alone might push many to give flying club a try.
Initial member feedback regarding the changes has been overwhelmingly positive, and Virgin is sure to score high marks with the press as well. Only time will tell if the carrot will prove mightier than the stick.