Virgin America History
Starting their service in 2007, Virgin America provides “long-haul point-to-point service between major metropolitan cities to the Eastern and West Coast seaboards.” Owned by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin America initially had trouble getting funding; however, in 2005 they were able to secure enough to submit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) certificate application. Additionally, the Virgin Group had to restructure the airline to comply with American DOT regulations, which delayed its service until 2007.
In 2009, Virgin America became the first U.S. airline to provide Wi-Fi thanks to Gogo Inflight Internet on all flights. After reporting many quarters of losses, in the third quarter of 2010, Virgin America posted their first profit of $7.5 million. Also in 2010, Virgin America stated service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and began non-stop flights to LAX and SFO. In late 2011, Virgin America switched to Sabre’s Global Distribution System (GDS), which was supposed to handle reservations, frequent-flyer accounts, crew scheduling, and flight operations data, but instead created numerous customer issues.
2012 brought around the first Virgin America Loft: an airport lounge in LAX with free drinks, snacks, and Wi-Fi. Elevate (Virgin America’s frequent flyer program) Gold and Silver members have a few free day passes to the Loft each year, but all Virgin America passengers or airline partner passengers can buy a day pass. As of 2014, Virgin America won two gates at Dallas Love Field, therefore eliminating their flights from Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport. Dallas Love Field became one of their focus hubs and has non-stop flights from SFO, LAX, DCA, and LGA.
Virgin America has ties to other Virgin Group airlines and continues into 2015 by providing cost-effective, coast-to-coast flights.
Virgin America Alliance
Virgin America is not part of any alliance at the current time.
Virgin America’s Main Hubs and Where They Fly
Virgin America’s headquarters are in Burlingame, California with San Francisco International Airport as their main hub. They also have focus hubs in Los Angeles and Dallas. Virgin America only flies around the United States and Mexico.
- San Francisco International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Dallas Love Field
Where They Fly:
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- Dallas Love Field
- Fort Launderdale
- Las Vegas
- Los Cabos
- New York
- Palm Springs
- Puerto Vallarta
- San Diego
- Washington D.C.
Virgin America Elevate Frequent Flyer Program and How it Works
Unlike many other programs, Elevate has no blackout reward dates or restrictions. You can use your points when you want to, whenever you want to. Points do not expire as long as you have account activity within an 18-month period and for every Virgin America flight you book, you earn 5 points per $1. You can boost these points by using one of the Virgin America credit cards to purchase the ticket. Additionally, you can transfer points or gain points from one of their many partners and climb statuses to earn greater benefits.
Virgin America has two elite levels: Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold. You need 20,000 points to become a Silver member and 50,000 to be considered Gold. Both Silver and Gold members benefit from free Express seats, free upgrades to Main Cabin Select, advanced First Class upgrades, yearly passes to Virgin America Loft (Silver receives two free passes and Gold has three), and priority airport services (check-in, security, boarding, baggage). Silver members can check one bag for free while Gold members have up to three free checked bags.
Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold members receive bonus award points as well. Silver members earn 25% more points while Gold members receive 100% more points on Virgin America flights. There are also coupons for non-refundable Main Cabin tickets for each level. Silver members have one, 25% off code to use per year and Gold members get two, 25% codes per year.
Among the many frequent flyer programs, the Virgin America Elevate system is one of the most transparent and easy to understand. They want you to enjoy your award flights without the same caveats that are built into other programs.
Virgin America First Class Seats
Best Virgin America Award Travel Flights
When you book an award flight in first class on Virgin America, sometimes you have to jump through a few hoops. Calling in to book it is usually a no-no since you can be on hold for hours with little progress. Booking online is the best way to secure a seat, however, the site does have trouble from time to time.
One of the best ways to grab a massaging, spacious, first-class seat is to wait six hours before the flight and upgrade online from a Main Cabin Select seat. This timeframe is when all available seats are up for grabs and since you’ve already secured a seat, changing it is simple. Fees for upgrades are on the expensive end with Main Cabin to first class ranging from $89-399 and Main Cabin Select to first class ranging from $50-$240. Picking a flight where there’s a ton of first class seats available also allows you to upgrade late in the game.
Virgin America first class seats are pricey even when it comes to points. Some first class seats start at 35,000 points while others begin at 130,000 points. Additionally, the length of the flight doesn’t always determine the points. Some of the shorter flights to big cities are more expensive than the longer flights to decent-sized cities.
- The Best Domestic First Class Flights from NYC to LAX, SFO, SEA
- 10 Best Transfer Partners for AMEX Points
How to Book Virgin America Award Travel
For only 2,500 points, you can book award travel through Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program. Like many websites, the Virgin America website has an informational page about booking award travel with a calculator to help you figure out how many points you need. Just click the departure and arrival cities and figure out how many points you need. The calculator also tells you the airline name that you’ll be flying whether it’s Virgin America or a partner. There are no blackout dates or restrictions so you can book award travel whenever you want.
The best way to book award travel is to use the online calculator and website, but you can also call 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN (1-877-359-8474) if you like to reserve your seat the old fashioned way.
How to Earn Virgin America Elevate Points
Booking flights, buying groceries, or using partner programs are just a few of the way to earn Elevate points. For just being part of the Virgin America Elevate frequent flyer program, you earn 5 points per $1 spent on all flights. However, when you use a Virgin America credit card, you not only earn the frequent flyer points, but 3 points per $1 on the card. The best way to earn points is to use the credit card for daily purchases (1 point per $1) in addition to booking all flights. You can also earn points through any of the partners and you can buy points for a discount or transfer points from participating programs. Below are the current Virgin America credit card offers and partners. Free bags, companion tickets, and 20% off RED in-flight purchases are just a few of the benefits.
Virgin America Credit Cards
All Virgin America credit cards include one free checked bag for you and your companion and $150 off a companion ticket each year. Each card earns 20% off on RED in-flight purchases, 3 points per $1 spent with Virgin America, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases, the points don’t expire, and there are no blackout dates or restrictions on award travel.
- Virgin America Visa Signature Card
- 10,000 bonus points after $1,000 purchases in first 90 days
- $49 annual fee
- Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card
- 15,000 bonus points after $1,000 in purchases in first 90 days
- 15,000 status points each year
- No change or cancel fees with travel plans
- $149 annual fee
Virgin America Partners
- Virgin Australia
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air China
- Air New Zealand
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Asiana Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- El Al
- Etihad Airways
- Ethiopian Airlines
- EVA Air
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Philippine Airlines
- SATA International
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Ukraine International Airlines
- The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
- Hilton Hotel
- Joie de Vivre Hotels and Resorts
- Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
- Marriott Hotels
- Morgans Hotel Group
- One & Only Palmilla
- Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn
- SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
- Tablet Hotels
- Viceroy Hotel Group
- Virgin Hotels Chicago
- Virgin Limited Edition
- Virgin Vacations
- Crunch, Crunch Live
- Gilt City
- Next Issue
- Virgin Wines
- AMEX Rewards
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