Like a Virgin...Elevate Program

Because I'm from the East Coast and currently live on the West Coast, there's a few times a year I go back and forth. And sometimes I also make jaunts down to Texas. Because of this, I've found Virgin America to be the best middle ground (for me) in terms of economical and comfort. I will fly Southwest when I have to and it makes sense, I've flown other airlines across country, but Virgin tends to me #1 choice.

Firstly, I love their planes. I loooooove them. I find the seats comfy, I love the screens at every seat, their food tends to be pretty edible, and secondly, they've almost always gotten me where I need to go on time. I think in the 4-5 years I've flown them, I've had maybe two delays due to weather. 

Seeing as I fly them a lot, it made sense to enroll in Elevate, their frequent flyer rewards program. It's a revenue based program, where you earn 5 Elevate points per every $1 of your base airfare. If you sign up for either of their Visa Signature Credit Cards, it adds an extra 3 points per base airfare dollar, for a total of 8 Elevate points possible per the $1. Even if you don't have their cards, the 5 per $1 can add up quick depending on how much you travel.

They have different tiers of membership- Red, Silver, Gold. Admittedly, I haven't put too much care into what they all mean, but I do know Silver Elite members get a few nice perks like complimentary same day upgrades when available. I should look at the tier level options more, but I've got a while to go before hitting silver and I used almost all my points a few months ago towards Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

That's another cool thing about Elevate, Virgin America partners with quite a few great airlines, so you can get to most places in the world by redeeming points with their partners like Hawaiian Air, Singapore Air, Virgin Australia, Virgin Elevate, etc. You do have to call in to book these seats and learn the ropes on checking award availability, but my one experience so far was pretty smooth. It also doesn't take as many points as other airlines programs to hit Upper Class.

For Upper Class SFO-LHR, it's 50,000 points. It's a lot more miles on AA or Delta. Granted, Delta also partners with Virgin Atlantic and often the taxes and carrier fees are lower through Delta, but it also requires spending more towards Delta to reach the 130-150k you need for Upper Class. This is the one area you do take a slight hit when flying to the UK, the tax and carrier fees are pretty tedious at $910-1100. But considering the seats are usually $5-6k, I'm not going to complain too much. They eliminated the fuel surcharge fees for Virgin Australia award flights, so hopefully Atlantic follows suit.

Something to note is that there really isn't an arbitrary amount of points needed to fly domestic. Whereas it might be 7500 or 12000 East to West, etc., there doesn't seem to be a set amount for Elevate, and the points needed vary. On the flip side for the good, there's no restriction on award seats for Virgin America, if there's a seat, you can use points towards it. With Atlantic, their award calendar opens up 333 days out and they only set aside so many, so getting a Fri or Sat night award flight in Upper Class means knowing if you're going almost a year out. 

I do wish American Express Rewards points transferred 1:1 to Virgin America, right now it's 2:1. I also wish it was a little more fixed as to how many points you need to go where domestic, but I'm also trying my best not to waste points flying domestic when I should really build those to use for partner international flights. 

Overall, if you fly between the coasts a lot, Virgin is pretty nice metal to fly on and an overall pretty satisfying frequent flyer program.