The New Virgin Australia Velocity Rewards Card – Mines Gold – Photo: Virgin Australia
Recently, I received a lovely little gift in the mail, all the way from the other side of the world. In the envelope was my new Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flier card. When I looked closer at the card, though, I noticed something different. The back resembled a debit card; in fact, it was a prepaid Visa card. It made me think about what has been happening lately between airlines, their frequent flier programs, and credit cards.
Over the last 12 months, two of the largest US-based frequent flyer programs have introduced minimum spending amounts to attain or maintain elite status. In 2014, United’s MileagePlus program will require a minimum amount of Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD) along with the usual amount of miles or segments. Your PQD has to be made up of ticket spend on United-issued tickets or by purchasing upgrades to Economy Plus. To maintain your Gold Status into 2015, a Premier Gold flyer would not only have to earn 50,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM), but they would need to spend $5,000 on airfare (taxes don’t count, sadly).
United’s move was almost a carbon copy of Delta’s SkyMiles program, however they just changed the words around. Replace “Medallion” for “Premier” and hey, presto… welcome to SkyMiles! A very similar arrangement, but unlike United where all the tickets have to be issued by United, Delta allows you to earn your Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) with partner airlines (but what qualifies as a partner is a whole story of its own). United only allows partner earning when booked through United.
Emirates Airline announces a new tier for the Skywards program. Photo taken at Dubai Airport yesterday by AirlineReporter.com.
Today, Emirates Airlines will announce a new elite tier in their Skywards program: Platinum. Just before the announcement, I was able to sit down with Brian LaBelle, Senior Vice President of Emirates Rewards in Dubai to ask some questions and learn more about the airline’s program.
Previously, Emirates had three rewards tiers: Blue: just register, Silver: earned at 25,000 miles and Gold: earned at 50,000 miles. Starting April 1st, 2013, passengers will be able to attain Platinum status flying over 150,000 miles. That is quite the upgrade from 50,000 miles of Gold status, so what will the premium get you? Here are the main benefits:
- Access for the cardholder and one guest to the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai and Emirates Lounges across the network
- Complimentary Emirates Skywards Gold card for each member’s partner, giving them the benefits of Gold status, even when flying on their own.
- ‘Last Seat’ Flex reward, enabling Skywards Miles to be utilised on any flight, as long as there is an open seat.
- Additional 20kg luggage allowance.
- ‘Guaranteed Business Class‘ revenue seat, meaning you will not be bumped if you use cash or rewards for a business class seat.
- 75% bonus Skywards Miles
LaBelle explained to AirlineReporter.com that Emirates wants to reward their top fliers and make sure they keep flying on Emirates. He wasn’t able to confirm how many current Gold level members will automatically earn Platinum status on April 1st, but he was able to say that out of the 8.6 million who have signed up for Skywards, about 110,000 are currently Gold members.
Although status will not transfer between most other airlines that Emirates has partnerships with (Alaska Airlines, jetBlue and easyJet), the new status will be shared with Qantas Airlines Frequent Flyer Program. This makes sense since both airlines will be entering a larger alliance starting also on April 1st.
||This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.
David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
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