Want Double Virgin America Points? You'd Better Book Now!

Virgin America hasn't exactly been a leader in frequent flyer marketing. After Elevate's launch a year ago amid much self-congratulatory fanfare, the program has mostly been left to fly on autopilot.

Yesterday, the airline announced its first significant post-launch promotion. But it won't do much to bolster the airline's credibility with members of its mileage program.

First, the reward piece of the promotion: double points for all flights through December 15. Double points, all flights, three months—no quibbles there.

But to qualify for the bonus, Elevate members must book their flights between October 12 and October 18. A one-week window to commit to flights as far as three months out? C'mon, guys.

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Promotions always have a revenue goal. Consumers understand and accept that. But consumers also expect respect and consideration, especially when the offer is frequent flyer program related. Loyalty programs are about just that—loyalty—and it cuts both ways.

It's a balancing act, to be sure—creating a win-win proposition that's rewarding for both the company and the customer. Instead of win-win, however, this offer just communicates Virgin America's apparently urgent need to generate short-term cash flow. A fare sale would have been a more appropriate tactic.

Before designing its next promotion, Virgin America marketers would do well to practice some deep breathing and recite the following mantra: "Loyalty is a two-way street." Repeat, repeat, repeat.

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