Elite status credit card benefits are started to get harder to come by but a few low-cost airlines are making moves towards better frequent flyer benefits that still continue to keep costs low.
JetBlue and Virgin America are known for offering competitive prices while not skimping on many of the benefits that larger, more expensive airlines offer. What many consumers may not be aware of, though, is that these larger airlines are starting to restrict their elite level status, leaving the great upgrades offered by these smaller passenger air carriers, perhaps, alone at the top.
Joined, somewhat surprisingly, by American Airlines these airlines continue to provide extremely competitive benefits during time when everyone is cutting access in order to keep costs low.
Beginning on June 23, JetBlue and Virgin America made announcements regarding new programs for frequent flyer that will award customer loyalty with elite perks. The benefits are not available until August 7, but the buzz surrounding these benefits is already circulating.
The Mosaic program is JetBlue’s new elite chapter for their existing TrueBlue frequent flier program. For Virgin America, silver and gold tiers have been added to its existing Elevate frequent flier program. Both airlines already offer innovative frequent flyer programs, with points earned according to the price of the ticket as opposed to miles travelled: Virgin’s program earns five points on the dollar while JetBlue earns three (with the possibility of double points if you book through their website).
With that in mind, you will probably like to learn of what it takes to earn these elite benefits. To qualify for JetBlue’s Mosaic program requires that you log 15,000 points (which equates to spending approximately $5,000) or 12,000 points ($4000) and booking at least 30 flight segments. When you earn this, though, you will get access to priority security and boarding lines. You will also be granted the option to buy premium seat upgrades as well a second checked bag free of charge.
Virgin America’s Elevate program is slightly more complex as they offer two tiers. The Silver status requires that you earn 20,000 points (which equates to $4,000 in spending) in a single calendar year. This earns you access to priority check-in, security, and boarding. This level also earns you one free checked bag, 25 percent bonus points when you book flights, as well as a free upgrade to Main Cabin Express.
Earn 50,000 points aboard Virgin America and you will reach gold-status perks. This includes three free checked bags, a point bonus of 100 percent when you book flights, as well as first choice for premium seating as early as 24 hours before your flight (Silver members get access at the 12-hour mark).
Virgin’s bonus is less than the A-list status requirement for Southwest (which rings in just below $6,000) but still more than the 25,000 mile minimum required for base-level status on most other major airlines. To address this disparity, representatives from both JetBlue and Virgin America have contested that their overall flight experience is much better than their competitors.
For example, every single seat on JetBlue airlines is leather and at least 34 inches, 3 inches in pitch greater than the typical coach seat. Virgin, on the other hand, offers in-flight entertainment and free Wi-Fi with every seat.
In addition to what you will find aboard JetBlue and Virgin America, American Airlines is looking to compete in this market. Their strategy is to offer benefits that you probably won’t find aboard any other flight in the elite-status cabin. For example, American Airlines will offer lie-flat seats in first and business classes for coast-to-coast flights. They have also increased their fleet size as well as the size of the first and business-class cabins.