Virgin America's New Mileage Partner: Singapore Air

Effective immediately, members of Virgin America's Elevate program can earn and redeem points for flights on Singapore Airlines.

Points are awarded according to booking classes and as a percentage of flown miles, as follows:

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  • Discount economy (U, L, K booking classes): 40 percent of actual flown miles
  • Economy (S, Y, B, E, M, H, W) - 40 percent of actual flown miles
  • Business (Z, C, J, D): 50 percent of actual flown miles
  • First/Suites (F, P, A): 60 percent of actual flown miles
  • Suites (full fare) (R): 70 percent of actual flown miles

Take careful note of the booking classes that do not earn credit: Q, N, G, V, T, O, I, X. That list includes fares that are widely used by non-business travelers, who are likely to assume that they'll earn credit for their flights. Apparently anticipating that problem, the terms and conditions include this caveat: "Just make sure to check at the time of booking to see if your class of travel is eligible for Elevate points."

Elevate points have a relatively fixed value of around 2 cents apiece, depending on the day of the week. A Los Angeles-Tokyo flight, at 5,451 miles, would net about 2,180 credits one way, 4,360 round trip. That's worth around $87 when redeemed for Virgin America award flights. For comparison, the same flight would earn 10,902 miles in a traditional mileage program, almost half the 25,000 miles required for a free domestic coach award. Earning miles, rather than Elevate points, looks to be the better value.

On the redemption side, sample award prices are as follows:

Los Angeles - Tokyo -Los Angeles

  • Economy - 35,000 points plus $70 taxes and fees
  • Business - 95,000 points plus $70 taxes and fees
  • First - 130,000 points plus $70 taxes and fees

New York - Frankfurt - New York

  • Economy - 20,000 points plus $144 taxes and fees
  • Business - 70,000 points plus $144 taxes and fees
  • First - 90,000 points plus $144 taxes and fees

Although the taxes and fees are reasonable, once again there are no great values to be had, at least for flights U.S.-based travelers are likely to be interested in.

As is typical of such marketing co-op arrangements, the frequent-flyer relationship is reciprocal: Members of Singapore Airlines' Kris Flyer program may also earn and redeem on Virgin America flights. The earning and redemption rates look somewhat better for Kris Flyer members, but probably not good enough to make joining a Singapore-based program a sensible move for travelers in the U.S.

Singapore Airlines is one of the world's premier carriers, and it's at least a symbolic feather in Virgin America's cap to have them onboard. It's unfortunate that they don't participate on more consumer-friendly terms.

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