Look Who’s Playing “The Match Game”

Recently, Virgin America announced they’re offering to match their Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold statuses to the fliers who hold premier or elite status on United, American, and Southwest Airlines. This happens every now and then when an airline wants to attract new frequent (read: business) travelers whose loyalties and non-discounted fares often make up the majority of a carrier’s revenue on any given flight. The details can be found on Virgin America’s website. The status-match page, much like Virgin America’s normal page, is very straightforward, easy to navigate, and clearly illustrates the different airline statuses and how they convert to Virgin America’s Elevate Silver/Gold tiers of membership.

The Deal

This is a good deal for people like me who have status at the moment but don’t think they’ll be able to keep it past the calendar year. I know there’ll definitely be a dip in both the number of trips I’ll take and the distances I’ll fly. As such, I should capitalize on all offers to keep the perks that come with frequent travel.

VirginAmericaInFlight4

Getting airborne soon? You’d better.

There is a catch, though – you didn’t think Virgin America was just handing out status, did you? The snag is you only have until 30 June to accrue a base amount of Elevate points to maintain your newly-granted Elevate Silver/Gold status. The amount of points needed depends on the status you’re looking to match.

As an example, I’m a Premier Platinum member of United’s MileagePlus program. I’ll be status-matched to Elevate Gold on Virgin America, but I need to earn 12,000 points before the end of June in order to keep Elevate Gold status through the remained of 2013. Virgin America tells me I can do that by booking one long-haul round trip in Main Cabin Select (think Premium Economy with some First Class perks) and one short-haul trip in First Class. These trips take into account the Elevate Gold point accrual bonus you’ll have once you’ve been status-matched.

Pricing things out with trips I’d actually take, I’d have to drop a total of $1700 on two trips from San Diego – one to San Francisco in First Class and one to Washington, DC in Main Cabin Select. That means I’m essentially paying upwards of $2000 to “buy” status with Virgin America. In all fairness, though, I chose dates that I know I can travel, which isn’t necessarily with the cheapest fares. But juggling the mandated time crunch and my work schedule, I only have so much free time. I doubt I’m alone in this. However, if you have some flexibility, you could definitely make this work to your advantage.

Of course you’re free to mix-and-match trips and travel classes as you see fit to reach the desired point requirement, but the deadline is just two-and-a-half months away. That’s a lot of flying – and a lot of money – in a short period of time if you’re not already planning to travel. The whole situation calls for a pretty basic examination of the return on investment; is elite status and the accompanying perks worth the money required to earn and keep that status? I’d urge you to take a look at just what Elevate Silver/Gold members get. You can see for yourself here. And here.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t plan on a lot of flying immediately, but maybe a fair bit in the latter half of the year, this is probably a good investment. If you aren’t planning any trips already, and doubt you’ll be doing so in the near future, then I’d advise you to shy away from this promotion.

Chances to match status don’t come along terribly often, so it’s an excellent idea to check them out when they do, especially if you know you’ll be taking to the skies with some regularity. But, as with all large-ish purchases, make sure you do some research to determine if it’s truly worth it. Personally, I’ll probably pass on this offer. Doesn’t mean I won’t reconsider, though. I do have a lot of friends in Washington, DC and San Francisco. We’ll see.