Virgin

The Incredible Value Of Redeeming Virgin Atlantic Miles For ANA First Class

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Earlier I wrote about how Amex is offering a 30% bonus when you transfer Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. In general Flying Club is one of my least favorite airline programs. Their redemption rates for travel on their own flights are high, at least in premium cabins, and have hefty carrier imposed surcharges.

They also have lots of partner redemption opportunities, though for the most part they don’t represent a good deal. Virgin Atlantic’s absolute best partner redemption opportunities are for travel on Japan-based All Nippon Airways.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has a distance based award chart for travel on ANA, and the redemption rates are exceptional. The cost is based on the cumulative distance of roundtrip travel. So for example, you could fly from the US to Japan, and then connect from Japan to elsewhere in Asia. Here are the redemption rates:

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Transfer Amex Points To Virgin Atlantic With A 30% Bonus

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American Express Membership Rewards is offering a 30% bonus on points transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club through May 22, 2017. This is the points currency accrued on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, etc.

Ordinarily points transfer at a 1:1 ratio (in 1,000 point increments), while through this promotion you’d get 1,300 Flying Club miles for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points transferred.

For context, Amex offered a 30% transfer bonus around the same time last year, and earlier this year Citi ThankYou offered a 25% transfer bonus to Citi ThankYou.

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Alaska Is Going Above And Beyond To Deal With “Cross-Fleeting” Issues

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Earlier I wrote about a situation where a reader booked a ticket in Virgin America first class from Dallas to New York, and was rebooked in first class on an Alaska regional jet instead.

Following a merger, it’s common for airlines to start “cross-fleeting,” which is the practice of swapping the planes they use on routes to reflect demand. While Alaska is continuing to operate the ex-Alaska and ex-Virgin America fleets separately, they can still move planes around a bit. In this case they decided that they were better off putting Embraer 175s on their route from Dallas to New York, and using the Virgin America A319s for different routes. This change kicks in for flights as of late August.

This presents a slight problem, though:

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Alaska And Virgin America Are Swapping Planes On Some Routes, And It’s Problematic

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While Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America formally closed late last year, so far it has more or less been business as usual for customers. Typically it’s 1-2 years after an airline merger closes when customers are most impacted, as the airlines align policies. This applies to their onboard products, frequent flyer programs, schedules, etc.

A few weeks ago we learned about Alaska’s plans for Virgin America. Essentially, the Virgin America experience will be discontinued, including their superior first class product, frequent flyer program, etc. However, it’s going to be several years before those changes are fully implemented.

Now we’re starting to see the two airlines swap planes on some routes. The airlines have very different fleets — Virgin America exclusively has Airbus A320-family aircraft, while Alaska has 737s, along with some regional jets. So they can now do a better job of flying the right size plane on the right route.

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Alaska Airlines Is Adding Flights To Detroit, New York, And Philadelphia

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With Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America having closed late last year, it’s interesting to see what the expansion efforts of the combined airline look like. Just a couple of weeks ago we learned about the future of the “new” Alaska’s branding, and about how it’s basically going to be business as usual for Alaska.

Well, Alaska has just announced their three newest routes, all of which are either midcons or transcons, and all of which are redeyes on the eastbound flight (ouch!).

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Richard Branson Wants Alaska Airlines To Pay Him Licensing Fees Until 2040

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While Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America was finalized late last year, they only outlined the future of the brand last week. Alaska wanted to take time to decide whether or not they wanted to keep the Virgin America brand around.

While Virgin America has a loyal following, so does Alaska Airlines. From the beginning I thought they were going to dump the Virgin brand, as I’ve always viewed Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America as being about keeping them out of JetBlue’s hands, and establishing themselves as the truly dominant carrier on the West Coast.

So last week we learned that Alaska plans on retiring the Virgin America brand sometime in 2019. Shortly after this announcement Richard Branson wrote an open letter to Virgin America employees sharing his disappointment in this move, and also expressing how proud he is of what they’ve built. He stated his disappointment even more clearly recently, as quoted in the Puget Sound Business Journal:

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The Virgin America Elevate Program Will Be Discontinued As Of January 1, 2018

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Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed in mid-December, though for a while we didn’t know what the future of the combined airline would look like. That’s because Alaska was still deciding to what extent they wanted to keep around the Virgin America brand.

Last week Alaska finally shared a vision for what they wanted the future of the airline to look like. That future basically consists of “business as usual” for Alaska, and not much of the Virgin America brand surviving, other than a “hip” vibe. For example, Virgin America’s spacious first class product will slowly be phrased out and replaced by a more standard first class product (which I can’t imagine will compete very well on transcon flights).

We learned that the Virgin America brand as such would be discontinued sometime in 2019, and that Virgin America’s Elevate program would be folded into the Alaska Mileage Plan program sometime in 2018, though didn’t have an exact timeline beyond that.

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Richard Branson’s Open Letter About Virgin America’s Demise

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Yesterday we learned a lot of details about the future of Alaska and Virgin America, following the two airlines formally merging late last year. Essentially Alaska will be the surviving brand and airline, though they’ll include some minor Virgin America touches, like mood lighting and hip uniforms.

However, if you’re used to Virgin America’s spacious first class and TVs at every seat, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Alaska flyers should be excited about these updates, as I don’t think it could have worked out a lot better for them. Most significantly:

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BIG Updates About The Future Of Alaska & Virgin America

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Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed in mid-December, though we haven’t seen much in the way of integration so far. The two brands are very different, and their marketing campaigns have been based around that, acknowledging the differences between the brands, but arguing that “different works.”

One of the biggest remaining questions has been what the future of the Virgin America brand will look like. Will the entire airline be named “Alaska,” will they somehow run two brands side-by-side given their relative strengths, or…? They said they hoped to decide on that in early 2017, and it looks like they’ve now made those decisions.

Alaska has just shared a huge amount of information about the future of the combined airline. To sum it up, expect the Alaska brand and product to stick around, with a few small Virgin America elements.

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The Alaska Companion Certificate Is Now Valid On Virgin America

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One of the best perks of The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card, and the reason I hold onto this card long term (I hold onto several of these cards long term, actually), is because of the annual companion certificate offered by the card. The card has a $75 annual fee, and every year you get a companion certificate on your cardmember anniversary. You can access the certificate by logging into your Mileage Plan account, and then clicking on the “Discount and companion fare codes” section on the left.

It’s advertised as a $121 companion certificate, though in reality the companion certificate has a $99 base fare, plus taxes and fees starting from $22.

What makes this companion certificate so valuable is that there are no “strings attached.” It’s valid for any economy ticket on Alaska, and the companion is even eligible to earn miles, upgrade, etc. Given that I fly on Alaska at least a couple of times a year with a companion on a ticket that would cost $200+, I come out ahead thanks to this benefit.

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Alaska Flyers Will Soon Have More Reciprocal Benefits On Virgin America

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Marriott’s takeover of Starwood closed in September, and on day one they introduced reciprocal status matching and points transfers. That’s damn impressive, especially when you consider that the two programs have nearly 100 million members.

Maybe they just set the bar too high, because by comparison it seems like Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America is going at a snail’s pace. Alaska still hasn’t decided how they want to brand Virgin America going forward. I appreciate them taking their time to make these important decisions, though I don’t quite get why they can’t make progress in other areas.

Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed in December, and there’s still not much in the way of reciprocity between the two airlines. As of now:

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Claim Your (Free) Share Of 7 Million Virgin Australia Points

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Virgin Australia’s Velocity program is celebrating their seven millionth member by giving away seven million Velocity points. Instead of doing a sweepstakes where a few people win big prizes, Virgin Australia is instead splitting the seven million points equally among everyone who registers.

To register, simply visiting velocity7millionpoints.com and enter your name, email address, postal code, and Velocity number. You can register through 3PM AEDT on Thursday, February 23, 2017 (that’s 11PM ET on Wednesday, February 22). After that they’ll calculate how many points each person gets based on how many people registered.

I suspect thousands of people will be registering for this promotion, so in practice I suspect each person will maybe get a few hundred points.

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Delta Is Offering Double SkyMiles For Travel To Australia

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With Australia’s peak travel season slowly winding down, Delta has a bonus offer for SkyMiles members. SkyMiles members can earn double base miles when they fly with Delta or Virgin Australia from Los Angeles to Australia (either Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne) through May 31, 2017.

In order to be eligible for the offer you need to first register, and then book and fly. Unfortunately that means that previously booked tickets are disqualified from this offer. Furthermore, the flight needs to be marketed by Delta, though can be operated by either Delta or Virgin Australia.

Given that Delta has a revenue based frequent flyer program, the bonus comes in the form of five bonus miles per dollar spent on base airfare. That means a base member would earn 10 miles per dollar spent, while a Diamond member would earn 16 miles per dollar spent. Furthermore, you only earn the five bonus miles per dollar spent for the portion of the airfare between Los Angeles and Australia, and not for any connecting flights.

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Roundtrip Transcon Virgin America First Class Tickets For 15,000 Miles

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Several weeks ago Alaska announced that they were introducing some new discounted distance based awards. Specifically, there are discounted awards available if flying a distance of less than 700 miles, a distance of 701 to 1,400 miles or a distance of 1,401 to 2,100 miles.

As I explained at the time, this presented some incredible opportunities to book one-way awards for 5,000 miles including a stopover.

While not directly related to this type of award, there are certainly other opportunities to take advantage of discounted distance based awards.

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