Virgin

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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Why You SHOULDN’T Convert Your Virgin America Points Into Alaska Miles

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As of earlier this week it’s possible to convert Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio. This follows Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closing about a month ago. Points convert almost instantly, though the catch is that conversions are one-way — you can convert Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles, but can’t convert Alaska miles into Virgin America points.

I’ve seen a countless number of comments from readers who feel screwed by this deal, though. Take this comment, for example:

“This is a bait and switch scam if you are Virgin Elevate Member. I converted my points today thinking I was getting a 30% bump for it, which I did when the points were converted to miles. However the devil is in the details. When I later checked out a flight I was looking at, I noticed this is where the scam is.”

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You Can Now Redeem Alaska Miles On Virgin America

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It’s a big day for Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate, as it’s now possible to convert your Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio (though a transfer in the other direction isn’t possible).

However, that’s not the only new development today.

It’s now also possible to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on Virgin America. This is an interesting opportunity, given that Virgin America Elevate is a revenue based program, meaning the number of points required for a redemption is based on how much a ticket would cost. Meanwhile Alaska Mileage Plan is a traditional program, meaning award availability comes at fixed costs.

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Almost Everyone Should Receive 10,000 Free Alaska Miles!

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Earlier I wrote about how Alaska seems to be awarding certain people with 10,000 free miles. When the miles were posted to accounts, the description read “SPECIAL SERVICES ELEVATE MEMBER OTO 10K BONUS.”

So it seems pretty clear that this is linked to Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America. Furthermore, the timing makes sense, given that you can now transfer your Virgin America points to Alaska Mileage Plan (though you may not want to, since as of now the transfers are one-way, as you can’t transfer from Alaska to Virgin America).

The problem with the 10,000 mile bonus is that we couldn’t actually figure out based on what criteria they were awarding the bonus. It seemed entirely random, and obviously it left a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths when they didn’t get the bonus, and others did. While I don’t share that sentiment (even though I didn’t get the bonus), nowadays airlines should expect just about all information will be shared due to the internet.

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You Can Now Transfer Your Virgin America Points To Alaska Miles

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Last month Alaska and Virgin announced the next phase of their merger, with mileage conversion and status matching starting as of January 9th. Virgin America Elevate points will convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio. Per Alaska’s website:

“On January 9, 2017, we will invite you to enroll in Alaska’s award-winning Mileage Plan, enabling access to book award travel on Alaska Airlines and Alaska Global Partners network to over 900 worldwide destinations. Plus, you’ll receive more detail on how you can convert your Elevate points to Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a rate of 1.3 Mileage Plan miles per Elevate point. And for elite-level Elevate members, Alaska Mileage Plan will automatically match your elite status!”

The transfer functionality went live a few hours ago, so you can now convert points from Elevate to Mileage Plan.

To start, go to this page, which will prompt you for your Virgin America Elevate credentials:

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Did You Get 10,000 Free Alaska Miles?

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As of later today (January 9, 2017), it will be possible for Virgin America Elevate members to link their accounts and match their status to Alaska Mileage Plan. This follows Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closing a few weeks ago. While we don’t yet know all the details of what the future combined loyalty program will look like (or the future combined airline, for that matter), this is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, leading up to this new linking opportunity, many Alaska Mileage Plan members are reporting 10,000 bonus miles appearing in their account with the description “SPECIAL SERVICES ELEVATE MEMBER OTO 10K BONUS.”

Unfortunately it’s not entirely clear what’s triggering this. It’s obviously somehow related to Virgin America Elevate based on the description, though beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

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Citi Offering A 25% Bonus On ThankYou Points Transfers To Virgin Atlantic

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Citi ThankYou is offering a 25% bonus on points transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club through March 2, 2017. This is the points currency accrued on cards like the Citi Prestige® Card.

This is the third time the Citi ThankYou program has offered such a transfer bonus. There were similar transfer bonuses in August of 2015 and March of 2016.

Ordinarily points transfer at a 1:1 ratio (in 1,000 point increments), while through this promotion you’d get 1,250 Flying Club miles for every 1,000 ThankYou points transferred.

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Rationalizing How Many Starpoints To Transfer To Virgin America

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As I posted about yesterday, Starwood and Virgin America are cutting ties as of January 6, 2017. This has to do with Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America, and perhaps more specifically, with the fact that Virgin America Elevate points will convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio.

As it stands, Starpoints transfer to Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. This presents a pretty cool arbitrage opportunity. Since Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1.3 ratio, it means you can temporarily transfer Starpoints to Virgin America and then to Alaska, and get a 62.5% bonus in the end. In other words, 20,000 Starpoints will convert into 32,500 Alaska miles (when you account for the 5,000 point bonus, and then the 30% bonus on top of that).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is trying to decide how many Starpoints I want to convert into Virgin America points in the next week, before this opportunity ends.

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