The long-awaited moment is here for Virgin America Elevate members who are now over 500,000 strong. They can now redeem for award flights on Virgin America via the Web site or by calling the service center. When searching for flights, you can choose to display fares in either dollars or points, although you can’t view both at the same time.
The number of points required for a flight is based on the fare price and increases in direct proportion to the cost of a flight. This mirrors the way in which members earn points–five points per dollar spent on VA flights. As a flight fills up and availability becomes scarce, the dollar amount and point requirement increases. For example, we searched on a transcontinental flight from San Francisco to New York in the middle of November. One-way flights in the main cabin ranged from 8,326 points to 11,814 points and first class flights could be booked for 45,302 points to 61,721 points.
To earn enough points for a roundtrip award in the main cabin on the New York to San Francisco route, an Elevate member would need to spend around $3,330.40, which will vary based on the actual point cost of the award flight. In general, members of programs with a 25,000-mile award will earn an award flight for fewer dollars. A member can earn a 25,000-mile award after only five transcontinental flights, or $1,500 at a $300 roundtrip fare. The Elevate program, however, does not have blackout dates or capacity controls and if there is a seat available, you can purchase it with points–but be sure to book your award flight early to get the best deals.
Points and cash for the flight awards cannot be combined, but that ability is expected to be added in 2009. You can, however, redeem a one-way award flight and pay for the return trip. The program has not announced an elite program and a co-branded credit card is purportedly in the works.