A new alliance between Virgin America and Emirates will allow their customers to earn and redeem points and miles for travel on either airline, in a move set to broaden the international reach of Qantas' primary international partner.
Effective immediately, members of the Virgin America and Emirates frequent flyer programs can earn Elevate points or Skywards miles across each carrier’s full network of destinations, with flight redemptions available from October 24. However, the hook-up doesn’t extend to the earning of Elevate status points or Skywards tier miles.
Also left off the list is the redemption of points for first class travel – Elevate members can trade their points only for business and economy class travel on Emirates, while Skywards members are limited to swapping miles for Virgin America's Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select fares.
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Nor are status benefits such as lounge access and priority baggage handling included in the deal, making this a purely ‘earn and burn’ arrangement.
Mileage accrual for Skywards members is more generous than Elevate, which sees most economy fares on Emirates earning at just 20% of the miles flown – with travel in first class also earning at a reduced rate:
With the exception of the absolute cheapest Virgin America fares, Skywards members will achieve parity at a minimum, with fares in premium cabins earning at an increased rate:
Redemption rates also differ across the partnership.
Emirates’ Sydney-Auckland flights are available for 7,200 Elevate points in economy and 15,600 in business (plus taxes).
By comparison, Virgin America’s Los Angeles-Dallas flights (of a comparable length) go for 25,000 Skywards miles in Main Cabin (economy), and 37,500 miles in Main Cabin Select (plus taxes) – although this reflects the differing earning rates across the airlines.
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About Chris Chamberlin
Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, an opera ticket and a glass of wine!