Virgin America's Elevate program sure has come a long way.
In its early years, the program was hobbled by a lack of earning opportunities and points that expired after just 18 months. The program has been steadily adding earning and rewards partners—the roster now includes a small but meaningful collection of hotels, rental car companies, an online mileage mall, and so on. And in March 2010, finally, they adopted an industry-standard points-expiration policy: Any earning or redemption activity automatically extends all the points in members' accounts by 18 months.
Where the program has remained notably weak is in the area of promotions. When the airline launched new flights linking Dallas with Los Angeles and San Francisco late last year, for example, there were no bonus miles on offer to jump-start sales.
That's rare—most airlines routinely promote new services with limited-time mileage bonuses—and a sign the airline's loyalty marketing is stuck in low gear.
While this new promotion, an award discount, is a step in the right direction, its somewhat stingy terms suggest the company remains ambivalent about generosity in the service of loyalty.
Through 11:59 p.m. EST April 23, members of Virgin America's Elevate program can book award flights for travel during two periods—either between April 26 and June 16 or between August 24 and October 2—for 20 percent fewer points.
The discount applies to award travel booked in Virgin America's Main Cabin, in S, L, M, U, E, H, B, and V fare classes, to any destination the airline serves.
Deal or No Deal
The good: A 20 percent discount is significant. And its applicability to any Virgin America flight makes it more significant still.
The bad: Giving Elevate members just three days to take advantage of the discount detracts from the offer's value, and calls into question the seriousness of Virgin America's generosity. "Snooze you lose" and "thanks for your loyalty" is at best a mixed message.
Reader Reality Check
How has the Elevate program been working for you?
Does it compare favorably to other programs you participate in?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.