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Virgin America has been in the news a lot lately, most recently for the fact that Alaska Airlines is buying them for $2 billion, but for a couple of other changes as well
Today they announced some changes to their Virgin America Elevate statuses (Virgin America Elevate Silver and Gold. The most interesting part of that to me is that a) you can now qualify for status on number of flights in addition to cost of flight and b) even award flights cost towards this as well!!! Here is the relevant section of the press release I saw today
Today’s announcement means that Virgin America travelers will now be able to earn status based on either the number of flights they take or the amount they spend purchasing flights – with all flight activity since 1/1/2016 included. Reward flights will also be counted towards achieving status.
As you can see, getting Virgin America Elevate Gold status before required spending $10,000 (to get 50,000 status credits). Now you just need 30 flights (or you can still qualify on revenue). But you can get some pretty cheap flights with Virgin America (as low as $39 one-way). Here’s an example of a flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
I’m making the assumption that a roundtrip flight counts as 2 flights / segments, but even if not, you could just fly 2 one-ways. So you could buy 15 of these roundtrip flights for $71 each, or a total cost of $1,065 (compared to $10,000 to get Virgin America Elevate Gold status before!).
But wait… there’s more!
If you signed up for the Virgin America credit card (15,000 points but $149 annual fee – not an affiliate link), you also get 3 extra points per $1 on Virgin America spend.
Because award flight costs now, you can actually get Elevate Gold status for even less. Those same $71 flights cost 2,346 Elevate points plus $11.20, and if you pay for the flights, your $71 will earn you 568 Elevate points as a base member and 745 points once you hit Silver
- Use points for 6 roundtrip flights – costing 14,076 points and $67.20
- Pay for 2 roundtrip flights – costing $142 and earning 1136 points – hit Silver status
- Pay for 6 roundtrip flights – costing $426 and earning 4470 points
- Use points for 3 roundtrip flights – costing 7038 points and $33.60
You’ve earned Virgin America Elevate Gold status for an out of pocket cost of $149 (annual fee) + $67.20 + $142 + $426 + 33.60 or $817.80. That’s actually probably not better than just buying all the flights since you’d earn more miles on those paid flights, but it’s an option if you are truly trying to minimize your out of pocket costs.
Other Virgin America Elevate changes
As you can see from the above chart, Silver and Gold members will also get additional bonus points when flying Virgin America as an elite member (up to 7.5 and 12 points respectively). Virgin America also announced that they will now do a status match from JetBlue Mosaic to Virgin America Elevate Gold
I’m not sure what real benefits that Virgin America Elevate Gold status really has unless you’re a heavy Virgin America flier (perhaps you could status match it to something else?)