Significant Changes to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

S ignificant changes to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will occur effective as of Sunday, November 13, 2016, according to this official announcement, which includes all of the information and details on what to expect.

Earning Flying Club Miles

One of the changes seems to emulate those of other airlines where you will earn fewer Flying Club miles when traveling in the economy class cabin as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways on an inexpensive ticket; while you will earn more Flying Club miles when paying for an expensive ticket to travel in a premium class cabin.

Starting from earning 50 percent of the base flown Flying Club miles in economy class, Red level members can now earn up to 400 percent of the base flown miles if traveling as passengers seated in the Upper Class cabin.

Meanwhile — on flown miles stacked in addition to the cabin bonus — Gold elite level status members will earn a bonus of 60 percent; and Silver elite level status members will earn a bonus of 30 percents.

There is even a new calculator to see how many Flying Club miles you will earn as a Red level member on routes using both the current and new versions of the Flying Club program.

At this time, the amount of miles you can earn on partner airlines — such as Delta Air Lines, for example — will not change.

Redeeming Flying Club Miles

New standard dates and peak season dates — where peak season travel dates cost more Flying Club miles for award flights — have been introduced; but even the standard dates may require the redemption of more Flying Club miles for most Virgin Atlantic awards than in the current iteration of the frequent flier loyalty program.

Standard — or off-peak — reward flights will be available to book from Monday, January 16, 2017 starting from a redemption of 20,000 Flying Club miles for flying as a passenger round-trip seated in the economy class cabin; while peak season reward flights start from 40,000 Flying Club miles.

Neither option includes taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges starting from $470.00, for which you must pay.

Earning Elite Level Status

The required one-way flights for Upper Class applies to all flexible tickets in the W, S, Y, B, R, L, U, and M booking classes.

The new tier points system starts from 25 tier points in economy class and up to 200 tier points in Upper Class. You can earn Silver elite level status with 400 tier points from just one Upper Class return flight; and Gold elite level status with 1,000 tier points from just three Upper Class return flights — which in both cases applies to J, C, D, and I booking classes.

If you have existing tier points from flights on which you have already traveled or have booked to travel, they will be multiplied by 25.

The amount of one-way flights needed to earn elite level status has changed depending on which class of service you travel as a passenger — and it is no surprise that traveling in the Upper Class cabin reduces the amount of one-way flights needed to earn elite level status; while traveling in the economy class cabin increases the amount of one-way flights required to earn elite level status.

  • Red to Silver Elite Level Status
    • Economy class: five one-way flights required increases to eight
    • Premium economy: remains the same at four one-way flights required
    • Upper Class: three one-way flights required reduces to two
  • Silver to Gold Elite Level Status
    • Economy class: nine one-way flights required increases to twelve
    • Premium economy: remains the same at six one-way flights required
    • Upper Class: four one-way flights required reduces to three
  • Retaining Gold Elite Level Status
    • Economy class: 14 one-way flights required increases to 20
    • Premium economy: remains the same at ten one-way flights required
    • Upper Class: seven one-way flights required reduces to five

Flying Club Membership Account Changes

Children younger than 12 years of age may now have their own Flying Club frequent flier loyalty program accounts…

…and all of the Flying Club miles of family members can be pooled together into a household account of you have earned Gold elite level status.

Your new Flying Club membership number now applies for a lifetime instead of your membership number changing each time you changed elite status levels.

A digital membership card via a new mobile software application program will be launched to allow you to track your Flying Club miles even more easily.

Miles Plus Money

For every 3,000 Flying Club miles you redeem with the new Miles Plus Money awards, you will enjoy a discount off of your ticket and will still earn Flying Club miles and tier points on your flight — theoretically meaning that paying for an entire trip using Miles Plus Money may be possible — but while this initially seems like a potentially rewarding option, details pertaining to exactly how much you will save using this option has not been publicly revealed at this time.

Taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges are included when using the Miles Plus Money option.

Using Miles for Upgrades

Using Flying Club miles for an upgrade on a paid flight now uses a simple standard formula, as an upgrade now costs:

  • 50 percent of the Flying Club miles of a reward seat for a one cabin upgrade
  • 75 percent of the Flying Club miles of a reward seat for a two cabin upgrade

Neither option includes taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges starting from $242.70; and lowest price tickets in N, O and V economy class — as well as K premium economy class — are not eligible for upgrades.

Summary

While thankfully not all of the changes are considered bad news, members of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club frequent flier loyalty program who pay as little as possible for airfare on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways may likely view the changes as a significant devaluation, steering the Flying Club program to be based more on revenue than on distance flown — a trend which other frequent flier loyalty programs have already experienced.

Short notice — in this case, two weeks — of announcing major changes also seems to be a trend of late…

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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