One of the last vestiges of Virgin America will fold on the first day of 2018. At that point, Elevate, Virgin America’s loyalty program, will officially be merged into Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan.
News of the program’s demise came to Elevate members in an email last week along with a published timeline for the integration.
Since Alaska and Virgin America officially received approval to merge late last year, the larger carrier has been moving quickly to consolidate resources and fold all of Virgin America’s assets under the new operation. January brought initial changes to Elevate with the reduction to several partner benefits. In March, Alaska also laid out a formal timeline for the merger and announced that it would kill the Virgin America brand, an expected yet disappointing move for many of the smaller carrier’s loyal fans.
Indeed, as the airlines continue to merge loyalty programs, a big part of the consolidation effort has involved attempts to not disenfranchise loyal Virgin America customers. Initially, Alaska offered 10,000 miles for Elevate members that transitioned over to Mileage Plan. In last week’s email, that offer was 5,000 miles after the first flight on Alaska.
Alaska has also made a feeble attempt to claim that facets of Virgin America will remain in tact as the airlines merge. In an initial release outlining the merger plan, Alaska said that it would “adopt many of the brand elements that Virgin America enthusiasts love about their favorite airline, including enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests.” It is unlikely, however, that Alaska will integrate Virgin America’s RED Entertainment system across its livery or adopt the smaller carrier’s garish in-cabin mood lighting.
As the airlines continue to draw closer together, those still dedicated to Virgin America and its loyalty program will continue to be able to accrue Elevate points and transfer them freely to Mileage Plan at a ratio of 1:1.3 through the end of the year. Several bloggers, however, warn that it may be best to spend the miles on Virgin America rather than making the transfer.
The good news for Elevate members is that they have a good loyalty program to look forward to. Alaska Airlines regularly wins awards for its distance-based loyalty program and generous spectrum of partner carriers. So in the end, while Virgin America fans lose an airline, they at least have a loyalty program to brag about.