Skift Take

Virgin America's loyalty program just got a lot better for frequent flyers -- especially if they're from JetBlue. They just need to be fine understanding that with the acquisition things will change.

Ever since the deal between JetBlue’s and Virgin America went south and Alaska Airlines walked away with the prize, relations between the two boutique carriers have been frosty.

Realizing that Virgin America’s audience may not be on frequency with Alaska’s, JetBlue made the first move by wooing disaffected Virgin customers with free flights. Now, Virgin America is expanding its loyalty program in part to court JetBlue TrueBlue members “feeling blue.”

The move from Virgin America is part of a larger series of changes aimed at better elite bonuses and incentives for the carrier’s frequent flyers. Among the updates, the airline increased point bonuses for elite passengers as follows:

  • Elevate Silver (earned after accruing 20,000 status points or 15 status segments within a calendar year) Members now earn a 50% bonus on earned points, up from 25%.
  • Elevate Gold (earned after accruing 50,000 status points or 30 status segments) Members now earn a 140% bonus on earned points, up from 100%.

Virgin America’s status match program was also expanded to specifically target JetBlue customers calling for any TrueBlue members “feeling blue” to sign up. That program, which has been around for several years, allows elite members from some competing carriers to send in their credentials to get “matched” status on Virgin America, effectively creating an incentive for business travelers to defect from their favorite airline. In including JetBlue in the status match program, Virgin America seems to be returning some of the sass that JetBlue originally delivered.

Past any showboating, what Virgin America really appears to be positioning for is a stronger presence in the lucrative corporate travel space — a segment in which Alaska is particularly interested.

Though Elevate has never been wildly popular mileage junkies, an industry shift towards revenue-based loyalty programs like Virgin America’s plus an impending acquisition from Alaska may now be incentive for business travelers to take a second look. And if Virgin America can tease JetBlue as it builds up it’s loyalty base, that’s just icing on the cake.

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Tags: elevate, jetblue airways, loyalty, virgin america

Photo credit: JetBlue's new loyalty credit card for its TrueBlue members. JetBlue

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