In A Real First, Virgin Atlantic Will Give Elite Status Miles For Award Flights

Virgin Atlantic like all other airlines is struggling during the pandemic. They’re in the midst of a restructuring and they’ve only just restarted flying last month to 6 cities.

Previously they had only extended member elite status by six months. They’ve gone ahead and made that now a full year, extending elite vouchers too. And they’re introducing changes to their frequent flyer elite program that are actually positive. The biggest change is that award travel will earn elite qualifying credit starting September 1.

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Award Flights Start Earning Elite Qualifying Miles September 1

Hotel loyalty programs generally count the nights you spend on points at hotels towards elite status. Airlines don’t count the miles you fly when redeeming your points. That’s changing with one airline.

Starting September 1, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will award elite tier points for redemption flights. That’s a first.

Members receive the same tier points “as if they were booking with money” so a business class one way earns 100 tier points.

Silver status requires 400 tier points. Gold status requires 1000 tier points.

  • Silver earns a 30% redeemable miles bonus on flights, advance seat assignments in basic economy, and premium economy check-in.

  • Gold offers a 60% mileage bonus, exit row seat assignments, extra baggage allowance, lounge access and business class check-in. Golds can also have household accounts, can nominate a Silver, and earn an upgrade at 2000 tier points.

Fuel surcharges usually make Virgin Atlantic redemptions for Virgin flights not a good deal, although I look at business class redemptions as a deep discount economy ticket (that doesn’t earn redeemable miles) combined with using miles for a double upgrade. That’s an easier pill to swallow. Now the fuel surcharges do actually buy something – credit towards status.

That said, the benefits of Virgin status are weak, largely just airport priority and lounge access – though that extends now to Delta and Air France KLM as well.

Still, you can transfer Chase, American Express, and Citibank points to Virgin Atlantic, redeem for travel, and have that travel count towards elite status. (Of course when you use those points to buy tickets directly, those tickets count towards elite status already.)

Spending on the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard from Bank of America earns elite qualifying credit as well – 25 tier points per $2,500 in spend, up to 50 tier points per month (and therefore up to 600 tier points per year).

It’s quite possible then to fly 5 business class roundtrips to London in a year on miles (or half as many through London to Shanghai or Hong Kong) and earn Gold status on nothing but award flights, or to combine award redemptions and spend on their co-brand card for top status.

Elite Status And Voucher Extension

Since Virgin Atlantic runs on ‘member years’ rather than ‘calendar years’ they initially only extended status by 6 months. They’ve gone ahead and extended another 6 months for a year in total.

In addition, vouchers and other upgrades that were valid March 13, 2020 were extended by 6 months and are now being extended another 6 months. That includes,

  • Gold member vouchers
  • Gold member Companion reward for Gold status renewal
  • One cabin upgrade for Gold member 2000 tier point reward
  • Clubhouse passes for Gold member 1500 tier point reward
  • Credit card vouchers: Companion reward, Premium upgrades, Clubhouse passes

Change In Terms For Elite And Credit Card Vouchers

Elite status and credit card vouchers have been aligned, and no longer have tier or booking class restrictions.

Companion vouchers can be used with a ticket in any booking class – paid with cash or points – and for any class of service regardless of elite status. The second ticket books into the award class, so that needs to be available. Elites can book companions into any cabin for no miles, while general members can book into economy or premium economy for no miles for business class at a 50% miles discount.

Upgrade vouchers will not have a booking class restriction other than excluding basic economy.

Lounge access vouchers will be valid for one entry to any Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, when
booked on a Virgin Atlantic flight or when traveling internationally with Delta, Air France or KLM.

Temporary Lounge Access At London Heathrow Terminal 2

Virgin Atlantic is temporarily flying out of London Heathrow terminal 2, and there’s no access to their usual terminal 3 lounges while that terminal is closed. The airline currently flies to Barbados, New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Miami, Shanghai and Hong Kong. This fall Virgin is scheduled to add Atlanta, Delhi, Mumbai, Lagos, Montego Bay, Antigua, Grenada and Johannesburg.

Anyone flying Virgin Atlantic eligible with lounge access can now use the London Heathrow terminal 2 Plaza Premium Lounge and will receive “a special welcome with an exclusive premium drinks package, which includes champagne.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Nice summary, Gary!

    And well done VA! This is incentivizing me to want to fly your product again.

  2. Thanks for sharing Gary! I have Silver status with Virgin Atlantic through credit card spend. How should I apply the companion certificate? I can’t find it anywhere on the Virgin website and phone calls to Virgin and BOA are futile as they keep blaming each other.

  3. If American Airlines started awarding elite qualifying miles for award travel, I would choose to fly with them. Currently, there is no compelling reason to choose them except if you want to get a COVID infection from the middle seat passenger.

  4. We still have not heard anything at all from BA about extending status–even for six months. A plan like VA’s would allow us to liberate a large backlog of BA miles that we will not spend because of surcharges or cannot spend because we need to earn tier points. There was a time when BA’s exceptional service kept us loyal, but that day has long passed. I’d be very interested in switching to VA.

  5. Gary, the hotels didn’t used to offer EQN either, but it seems most changed over, what, a decade ago? Why do you think the airlines haven’t followed suit, until now? Is it because EQM is too gameable, folks would do MRs on cheap award tickets?

    I know when you’re on the status treadmill, cutting qualification close each year, it’s so maddening and frustrating when you aren’t using your redeemable miles for your vacation, because you may need the EQM from a paid ticket for the next year.

  6. 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.

  7. Dan+1 does this apply to VA metal only or does it also apply on partner flights (like an early September return NRT-LAX on ANA…LAX-NRAt leg was too early though

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