Virgin Atlantic & Virgin Group have today, Monday 20 August 2018, announced they are to launch a new group loyalty programme in 2019.
At present, Virgin Group and Virgin Atlantic have separate loyalty programmes. Virgin Group operates Virgin Red which issues points for customers of numerous Virgin branded businesses. The rewards are relatively modest, such as free WiFi on Virgin Trains. Virgin Atlantic also operates its own frequent flyer programme Virgin Flying Club.
In 2019, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Group will launch a new, and as yet unnamed, programme. It will adopt Virgin Flying Club miles as its currency.
The New Programme
Details of the new programme are scant at the moment. Virgin Atlantic has provided a brief update for its Flying Club members.
It can be said with confidence that one new partner will be Air France-KLM. In April 2019, Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic will launch a new combined transatlantic joint-venture. It was confirmed in a regulatory filing that Virgin frequent flyers would be able to earn and redeem miles on Air France-KLM.
Virgin Atlantic has formed a new company, Virgin Group Loyalty Company Ltd, for the new programme. The new company will be led by Andrew Swaffield who was formerly Managing Director of Avios Group Ltd, a subsidiary of International Airlines Group. This is no accident. Much in the same way that Virgin Atlantic’s current CEO Craig Kreeger was closely involved in the establishment of the AA/BA transatlantic joint-venture whilst at American Airlines.
Virgin Flying Club has been a relatively weak frequent flyer programme compared to the BA Executive Club. This is primarily due to the relative differences in their respective route networks and the number of airline partners. A new Virgin loyalty programme with the ability to earn and redeem miles on short-haul flights in Europe, should be more competitive, particularly for passengers at UK regional airports.
(One small point that may or may not be relevant: When Virgin launches its new transatlantic joint-venture, Air France-KLM will acquire a 31% stake in the airline from Virgin Group. This will leave it with a 29% stake and Delta as the single largest shareholder, owning 49% of the airline. The new loyalty company appears to be wholly owned by Virgin Group.)
The exact launch date is likely to be driven by IT demands above all else. In the interim, it is worth signing up for a Virgin Red account as it is likely that Virgin Flying Club and Virgin Red balances will be combined when the new programme launches.