June 19, 2017 View in browser
Amidst the slow wind-down of Virgin America's marketing team over the last few months, facets of Elevate, the airline's loyalty program, have been calving like icebergs breaking off the Antarctic ice sheet.

In April, the joint Alaska-Virgin America published a schedule for the closure of Elevate and its ultimate integration into Mileage Plan, Alaska's loyalty program. Officially, the Elevate program will come to an end on January 1, 2018. Now, the group has also published dates in which the program's mileage partnerships will come to a close.

According to a landing page posted on Virginamerica.com this past week, most of the program's partnerships where Elevate members can earn points for assorted purchases and bookings wrap up at the end of September 2017. Primarily, that's the car rental partnerships from the likes of Avis and National and the hotel deals from the likes of Hilton and Starwood. Elevate's partnership with Airbnb is the only exception within the hotel space; that deal wraps up at the end of June.

The end of Virgin America's airline partnerships will be slightly more complicated. While it will no longer be possible to earn or redeem points on Emirates, Singapore, or Virgin Australia on September 30th, it will still be possible to travel on booked (before September 30th) awards until January 15th, 2018. The ability to earn and book award miles on Alaska flights will obviously continue until the two loyalty programs fully merge.

Partnerships between Elevate and a few of its transfer partners will be extended beyond the airline, car rental, and hotel partners, likely as a means to allow members to move points out of the program before it closes. Until the end of October 2017 it'll still be possible to use instruments at Points.com and American Express to move points through the Elevate program.

With each partnership coming to an end, Elevate will be left fairly handcuffed from the end of September to the end of the year. To pick up the slack, Alaska is aggressively trying to focus Virgin America's customers on the benefits of Mileage Plan. When the airlines merged, Alaska unrolled a deep series of incentives for Elevate members to sign up for Mileage Plan accounts -- including healthy bonus point offers. The campaign continued through this month with new incentives for Virgin America travelers connecting through west coast destinations onto international partner carriers.

And for most remaining Virgin America loyalty program members, the transition makes sense. Elevate was never among the top favorites for frequent-flying travelers. As a revenue-based program, it was never easy to earn a great deal of points on a grand scale and there were rarely good deals on which to redeem them. By switching to Mileage Plan, Elevate members end up getting a better program with better rates of mileage earning and better partnerships.

They just have to give up their favorite airline to get there.
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