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Yesterday, Virgin Atlantic launched a very generous status match promotion targeted at British Airways flyers, but overnight, a slight change to the airline’s usual status match rules may have made Virgin’s status match for other airline elites a little bit more interesting.
Why Virgin Atlantic elite status?
While elite status with a reasonably niche airline like Virgin Atlantic probably isn’t going to excite many flyers outside of the UK, because Virgin is now part of the SkyTeam alliance, it’s elite statuses give flyers select privileges when they travel with airlines like Air France, KLM, and Delta, and that makes Virgin’s elite statuses a lot more interesting than they have historically been.
Benefits afforded to SkyTeam elites are not in the same league as those we see oneworld or Star Alliance flyers getting when flying within their alliances, but some of the benefits can still be quite valuable.
The status match
We discuss the status match targeted at British Airways flyers here, but these are the key things you need know about the status match that Virgin Atlantic is currently offering to frequent flyers with other select airlines:
- You must hold one of the top two tiers of elite status in select airline loyalty programs to be eligible for a Virgin Atlantic status match.
- These are the airline programs and elite status levels that Virgin Atlantic is targeting:
- Second tier elites can get matched to Virgin Atlantic Silver status (equivalent to SkyTeam Elite status) while top-tier elites can get matched to Virgin Atlantic Gold status (equivalent to SkyTeam Elite Plus status).
- To qualify for a status match, you must:
- be an existing member of Flying Club, or enrol in the Flying Club program.
- have a future revenue or redemption premium cabin flight (Premium Economy or Business Class) booked with Virgin Atlantic.
- have proof of your other airline status.
not have status matched to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club in the past.
- Your status will be upgraded 72 hours before your qualifying flight.
- Cancellation of your qualifying booking will result in your status match being cancelled and your status will revert to red.
- The Flying Club Gold or Silver membership will be valid from 12 months from the date the account is upgraded.
The key change to the terms and conditions that appears to have been made overnight is that while, historically, only flyers with revenue flights booked with Virgin Atlantic could apply for a status match, those with award flight bookings can also now apply.
What Virgin Atlantic elite status offers
Key Silver tier benefits include:
- 30% bonus Virgin Points on flight bookings.
- 1 extra piece of checked baggage permitted on all flights.
- Access to Premium (Premium Economy) check-in desks.
- Access to advanced seat assignment in Economy cabins 7 days prior to departure (for the elite member only).
- SkyTeam Elite status.
Key Gold tier benefits include:
- 60% bonus Virgin Points on flight bookings.
- Access to Upper Class (Business Class) check-in desks.
- Access to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses and the London Heathrow Revivals lounge.
- Access to advanced seat assignment in Economy cabins at the time of booking (for the elite member and other passengers traveling on the same booking).
- Access to advanced preferred seat selection at the time of booking (for the elite member only).
- An extra luggage allowance, no matter which cabin has been booked.
- The ability to turn any seat into a Reward Seat for double the usual points price.
- A Companion Voucher when you renew Gold status by earning 1,000 Tier Points in a year.
- SkyTeam Elite Plus status.
SkyTeam elite status benefits
- Access to the priority reservation waitlist (when fares permit).
- Access to preferred seating.
- Priority check-in counters.
- Priority boarding or at leisure.
- Extra baggage allowance.
SkyTeam Elite Plus:
Elite Plus member get all the benefits of the Elite level and the following:
- Access to Business Class lounges worldwide, whatever the class of travel, for members in possession of a boarding pass, accompanied by a guest*.
- Priority baggage handling on arrival, whatever the class of travel.
- Extra baggage allowance.
- Guaranteed full-fare Y-class reservation on sold-out long-haul flights, at least 24 hours prior to departure.
*Lounge access is only granted to SkyTeam Elite Plus members traveling on, or connecting to/from, a same-day international flight operated by a SkyTeam member airline. For connecting customers, both the domestic and international flights must be operated by a SkyTeam member airline.
The key things to point out about the status match are as follows:
There’s nothing in the rules that says that a round trip booking is needed to activate the status match, so a one-way revenue or award booking should work just fine.
Only bookings on Virgin Atlantic flights will qualify for this status match, so a booking made through Virgin Atlantic but flown on Delta, for example, will not work.
The most important thing to note, however, is that Virgin Atlantic adds significant surcharges to its premium cabin awards (both Premium Economy and Business Class), so this status match will not come cheaply, so you’re going to have to be very sure that you’ll get good value out of your new elite status before you consider going for it.
From the East Coast, one-way premium cabin awards will incur surcharges of ~$450 …
… while round trip awards see surcharges starting at a truly ridiculous $1,224.
If I was looking to book a trip to lock-in this status match (which I’m not), I would probably book a one-way award and then return home on a very cheap revenue fare with whichever airline was offering one.
The key things to point out about SkyTeam status are as follows:
A lot of people seem to fixate on lounge access when it comes to elite status benefits, so it’s important to note that SkyTeam Elite Plus status cannot be used to access Delta lounges when flying domestically.
SkyTeam lounge access rules revolve around international itineraries. (more here), so don’t make the mistake of thinking that this status can be use in the same way as oneworld Sapphire/Emerald status can be used when flying domestically with American Airlines.
Also, if you look at the SkyTeam benefits on offer, it’s hard to make an argument for making an effort to match to SkyTeam Elite status. SkyTeam Elite Plus status is the one that’s possibly worth going for … and only, really, if you plan to do a lot of international flying.
Make sure you research the benefits that will be open to you very carefully, before deciding to invest in this status match.
In the past 24 hours, Virgin Atlantic has altered the terms and conditions of its status match program to allow select flyers with Virgin Atlantic award bookings to match to Virgin’s Silver and Gold elite tiers which, in turn, offer SkyTeam Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus elite status.
The cost of triggering the status match and the less than impressive benefits when flying within the US will probably put a lot of people off, but for those planning to travel with Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic or even Delta (internationally), there may be something here.