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With Alaska’s purchase of Virgin America now officially in the books, a big focus of the group in 2017 will be on stitching the two airlines together without disrupting the passenger experience.
And despite a strong incentive to keeping both loyalty programs in tact until the last second, it’s now apparent that Virgin America’s Elevate program is taking steps to wind down.
Late last month, Virgin America disappeared as a transfer partner from the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, one of the most preferred credit card and hotel loyalty programs for business travelers. Later that same week, the partnership reappeared, but with a followup message from Starwood.
Posting on InsideFlyer, a Starwood representative broke the news:
SPG has a long-standing partnerhip with both Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, and was excited to hear the news about the official close of their merger. This presents a great opportunity for Elevate members to join and enjoy all the benefits of Alaska’s award-winning Mileage Plan starting January 9th. Instead, SPG has decided to focus its partnership on Alaska Mileage Plan and end its partnership with Virgin America’s Elevate program.
Transfer capability officially ends on January 6th of 2017. Travelers will, however, be able to transfer points from Starwood to Alaska and then share points to Virgin America via linked accounts.
Other transfer relationships such as the channel between Citi’s ThankYou points and Virgin America, remain open.
For business travelers, Virgin America’s ending relationship with Starwood foreshadows a year in which Elevate program may quickly wind down. And while Alaska’s Mileage Plan should pick up much of the slack, hardline members of Virgin America’s Elevate program may soon find themselves with neither transfer partners nor uses for miles.
Neither carrier has so far confirmed an official date that the programs will merge, however, according to the joint operation’s DifferentWorks website, significant updates are planned “in the coming months.”